You don’t have to look very hard to find the inspirations behind WandaVision. The MCU’s most creative offering to date, WandaVision revolves around the idea that Wanda Maximoff has trapped herself in an alternate reality where life is like a sitcom, and everyone in the town plays their part perfectly.
Almost everyone, that is. Something is clearly rotten in Westview, and as the series races to a close I’m sure we’ll find out that everything is not quite what it seems. I’m not here to speculate on the ending, try and wedge in my personal take on how this connects to House Of M (actually I will: I think it’ll have nothing to do with it), or try and figure out what Agnes’ deal is. Instead, I want to talk about WandaVision’s biggest pop culture influence, especially since it seems like a lot of people don’t even know it exists: Too Many Cooks.
Too Many Cooks is an episode of Infomercials, which was… you know what? There’s no way I’ll be able to explain this and do it justice. Infomercials was kind of a sketch show, except each episode was just one sketch, and it sometimes lasted five minutes, sometimes almost half an hour. It was a parody of nothing in particular, it was satirical and dark and funny and weird. It already sounds a lot like WandaVision, but with Too Many Cooks especially, I’ll be amazed if at least one of the WandaVision showrunners hasn’t seen it.
The premise behind Too Many Cooks was that it was the opening credits to a sitcom, stretched over 11 minutes. At first, that’s exactly what it looks like, as a Full House style family – the Cooks – are introduced to the audience one by one while an upbeat theme tune plays in the background. Only once the whole family has been introduced, the theme tune loops, and the family suddenly doubles in size, and gains a strange puppet cat named Smarf.
Once it loops again, a mysterious stranger appears, his name in the credits pixelated and blurred, and he rampages through the credits in the background, murdering the rest of the cast. While this is going on, the credits turn into a cop shootout, a GI Joe-style cartoon, a space opera, a Law & Order parody, a horror film, and a fourth wall-breaking meta sequence where one of the actresses runs off the set to escape from the serial killer in the credits.
From here, it just gets weirder. Suddenly, the letters are the stars of the show, and the actors appear at the bottom of the screen as credits. Oh, and they’re screaming in pain too, just in case this wasn’t unsettling enough for you. If you think I’m underselling how bizarre Too Many Cooks is, check it out for yourself below.
When they’re not 11 minutes long and full of serial killers, opening credits can be wonderful storytelling devices. Shows like The Simpsons or Friends use them to instantly show off the personalities of the main characters. WandaVision understands this perfectly, updating its opening credits each week to match the episode’s theme and time period. Initially, it was a black and white, I Love Lucy-style cutesy opening to paint the happy couple of the late 1950s. In the most recent episode, it was a Malcolm In The Middle homage to indicate not only the 1990s setting, but also the friction beginning to appear within the family unit.
WandaVision doesn’t just borrow from Too Many Cooks by implementing active storytelling in the opening credits, though. I’m not sure exactly who our mysterious serial killer lurking in the background is, but I know he’s there, somewhere. Unlike most of you though, I’m not convinced he’s Agnes. As Pietro referenced this week, the cast is getting increasingly large too, which is surely going to lead to breaking point sooner or later. Plus, while the genre changes have been fairly subtle so far, like going from a ‘60s sitcom to a ‘70s sitcom, the ‘real world’ is having more and more influence on the show’s direction. Expect something in the vein of a spy thriller or a typical Marvel superhero flick to start driving the show soon.
Even as WandaVision keeps borrowing from iconic American TV shows, it’s clear that Too Many Cooks is the biggest influence on its underlying structure. If it’s going to stay that way, expect the twists to only get bigger as the series comes to a close. Just don’t expect the House Of M, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment.
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