Marvel Studios is six episodes into its first Disney+ spin-off series WandaVision . The show features a unique sitcom format that emulates a different iconic decade of American television every week, with Avengers Wanda Maximoff and Vision trading in their world-saving superpowers for historically inspired comedic performances.
In the small handful of episodes released so far, WandaVision has done a 1950s black-and-white multi-cam sitcom inspired by I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show , a 1960s Bewitched episode, a 1970s entry that takes from shows like The Brady Bunch , and a 1980s episode that pays homage to Family Ties and Full House .
The MCU series' most recent chapter, “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” , takes a huge shift in its narrative style and jumps to the early 2000s with a Malcolm in the Middle style episode . Malcolm in the Middle aired on the Fox network from 2000 to 2006, running for seven seasons and making stars out of celebrities such as Frankie Muniz and Bryan Cranston.
Like every other episode in WandaVision , this entry is heavily inspired by the tone, aesthetics, characters, and storytelling techniques of the particular time period that Malcolm in the Middle represents, and it features some very notable and exciting changes in the way this series tackles comedy.
A VERY 2000s OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE
WandaVision immediately begins its similarities to Malcolm in the Middle with the hectic alternative-rock-styled opening credits sequence. The theme song follows Tommy Maximoff as he chases down his family members with a home-video camera, catching them in some pretty unflattering moments.
Wanda is brushing her teeth right after waking up, Vision is seen yelling at Tommy for stealing his newspaper, Agnes is reaching into the fridge, and Billy and Tommy begin fighting over the camera, right before Pietro imposes himself into a not-so-perfect family photo.
Every character shot is marked by an embarrassing freeze-frame, directly mimicking the Malcolm in the Middle intro which uses the same exact technique. The footage and music are also accompanied by the same constantly shifting and oversaturated visual style that the real-life sitcom featured for its opening credits.
The theme song sequence introduces an important tonal shift that WandaVision takes from Malcolm in the Middle . The once perfect sitcom-family is a thing of the past, and real-life issues and cynicism are now finding their ways into Wanda's alternate reality, setting the stage for the more grounded tone that follows.
BREAKING THE FOURTH FALL AND SINGLE-CAMERA COMEDY
The sixth episode finally breaks free from the traditional multi-camera laugh-track sitcoms and introduces a much more grounded single-camera style show, following in the footsteps of early pioneers in this genre like Malcolm in the Middle .
WandaVision even features dual child-protagonists Billy and Tommy, who are able to speak directly into the camera and comment on the show's plots, just like Frankie Muniz's character in his series.
This episode also has multiple cutaway scenes, where characters reference a particular event, and the scene cuts away to show what they were referencing in order to cram one more joke into the overall runtime, a staple of single-camera sitcoms.
WandaVision's cutaway gags, such as Billy failing at a dancing video game and an eerie look back at Wanda and Pietro as kids in Sokovia, both help the episode actually feel like a product from the early 2000s.
A NEW SOUNDTRACK
Without a laugh-track there to fill the moments between lines, WandaVision 's sixth episode utilizes a more prevalent soundtrack. These scores are paired with each scene similarly to how movie scores are made.
This was another trait of early 2000s sitcoms that became a popular pillar of the genre, allowing each series to create a unique auditory tone for its respective show, such as Malcolm in the Middle 's zany-type music moments that accompany most scenes.
This new soundtrack can be heard throughout the episode, and gives “An All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” that much more of a distinctive feel to it.
Additionally, with the show's composer Christophe Beck recently stating that he hid MCU callbacks in the show's score , fans may want to go back and give the fun background music another listen.
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE'S CHARACTERS MEET WANDAVISION
Episode six not only embodies Malcolm in the Middle on an aesthetic level, but with its characters as well. The likes of Vision, Wanda, Tommy and Billy Maximoff, and Pietro are all given a small Malcolm in the Middle restyling.
Billy and Tommy are the polar-opposite siblings that cause mayhem within the family, Vision takes on a bit of Bryan Cranston's goofy bumbling-dad persona, and Pietro acts as a direct stand-in for the character Francis, the troublemaking older brother who pops into the Wilkerson household and further disrupts the day-to-day activities.
These characters no longer serve to simply deal with small conflicts and learn a wholesome life lesson at the end. Instead, they are meant to reflect the flawed and human nature of actual people in the real world, which also leads to the story's more down-to-earth take on the family sitcom.
A MORE GROUNDED REALITY
Aside from the episode's Pietro plot directly mirroring that of an actual Malcolm in the Middle plot where Francis takes his siblings on a fun Halloween spree in “Halloween Approximately,” “An All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” mimics Malcolm on a thematic level as well.
Malcolm in the Middle served as a groundbreaking new way to format a family comedy. Instead of existing within bright and cheery dreamworlds, the Fox sitcom brought its characters into more of a real-world setting, and this episode of WandaVision does the same.
As soon as the episode begins, Billy states that his parents are acting a bit different since Pietro showed up. The opening scene between Wanda and Vision indeed featured some major tension, with the couple no longer representing perfect soulmates, but instead two people who are questioning and, at times, resenting their way of life.
Billy gets a dose of real-world suffering as well when his powers kick in at the episode's climax. He can hear his father screaming in pain, with guns pointed at him, and the very real thought that he may die enters his mind.
The idyllic sitcom neighborhood is giving way to the harsh truths of real life, and with this, WandaVision emulates the 2000s sitcom Malcom in the Middle in every way.