Before speaking to Jac Schaeffer, the head writer and an executive producer of WandaVision, I had a feeling there was a deep cut of a television show that was, at least, partially driving the influences here. It couldn’t all be the more obvious show like Bewitched or The Brady Bunch. In other words, there just had to be a show in Schaeffer’s childhood that was an influence for WandaVision that might not exactly be mainstream. A show that if she went around saying, “Well, it’s based on this,” people would be confused.
Out of this World premiered in 1987. It was a weird show that aired during weird parts of the day, which differed depending where you lived. 1n 1987, NBC-owned stations tried starting prime time a half-hour early and Out of This World was part of this one-season experiment. After, it continued on in syndication for three more seasons. The plot was about a 13-year-old girl named Evie who learns that her father is an alien, so, being half-alien, she has alien powers that get he into a lot of wacky situations. In retrospect, it was a very weird show. And in retrospect, yes, it makes total sense how a show like that could have at least some influence on a show like WandaVision.
Ahead, Schaeffer tells us all about how the weird intricacies of out of this World helped her shape WandaVision. Also, she looks ahead to the future episodes and, without giving any story details away, takes us through a lot of the shows of the 1980s that will inspire what we are going to see on WandaVision very soon.
WandaVision so far is reminding me of a time when I had no real choice in what I watched, I just watched whatever was on after school. I’ve seen almost every episode of Hazel, a show that ended well before I was born, because it “was on.”
Yeah, that was my experience, whatever was on. I watched whatever used to come on at 8:00 and 8:30 every weeknight. I used to know that schedule. And then, also, the movies that I watched were whatever was playing on TBS and TNT, and then syndication after school.
We know the influences from Bewitched or The Brady Bunch, but what’s a deep cut show that you brought some of that to this?
Here’s a deep cut. Do you remember Out of this World?
So do you remember the pilot episode when she gets her powers?
I actually think I do.
It’s really a really weird moment. You’re in this silly little sitcom and everything is very twee and unexpected. And then I think she’s holding something. I want to go back and look at it. She’s holding cards or something, and she suddenly drops them and then puts her hands together, and it’s really weird and creepy. And that was a big influence on me, with the rupture of the sitcom tone.
So what from Out of this World did you put in WandaVision?
Just that everything could be so canned. And then also, and this is me projecting, but when she got her powers, it was her birthday and I think it was her 12th or 13th birthday? So there was a kind of a subversive, reaching puberty thing that I sort of put on it. And so there was a psychological element to it. So, yeah, all of that is part of the fabric of the weirdness of WandaVision, from the role that I had in it.
I remember Small Wonder was on around the same time, which was another really weird show that was similar.
Like ALF and My Secret Identity and the sitcoms that dealt with the supernatural were always a little funny. Because, with this show it was my greatest hope – and it seems that we have achieved it for some people – that it would hit on a subconscious level. And those shows did that to me. Like watching whatever – Growing Pains and Family Ties – that’s just fine and great and you’re enjoying it. But that sort of supernatural stuff, I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I would love to speak with those creators and know if they were trying to be weird.
On Family Ties, Nick may have been supernatural.
[Laughs] Have you seen, this is a real test, have you seen… was it called My Valentine?
Wait, yes, but his name is Scott Valentine. The movie…
This interview is getting weird fast, probably because I’m tired, but yeah, I love that you know that movie. It’s a weird one. [Note: the movie is My Demon Lover]
They made a spin-off of Nick’s character. He got his own show. I think for one episode. It was just a pilot. And then he came back to Family Ties.
We missed the airing.
So in the trailer for WandaVision we see Kathryn Hahn wearing the eighties aerobic gear. We haven’t seen that episode yet. Is that this Friday?
You’ll have to wait and see.
Okay, fair enough. So how does it end? How does the whole show end? Just tell me.
Okay, that I can tell you.
Can you say what show the aerobics outfit ’80s show is mostly based on?
Oh, well, all the sitcoms are amalgamations of a lot.
But which ones for you were your main influences?
Well, the eighties, that’s my zone. It’s everything. You’ll recognize all the pieces, from the production design, things from Family Ties and Full House and Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss?
I’ve got my fingers crossed for It’s Your Move. Remember It’s Your Move?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s got Roseanne and Just the Ten of Us, which [WandaVision director] Matt [Shakman] was on.
I talked to him about that. I don’t think he believed me when I said I had seen every episode of Just the Ten of Us. But, what else was I going to watch?
At this moment, I believe you.
It was a spinoff of Growing Pains. It’s Coach Lubbock.
I was in. There was a lot of hair aspiration with those young women. That’s what I stood up for.
Are there any other deep-cut shows coming? Because Out of this World, that’s a pretty good deep cut.
I feel like I nailed it with that one.
Yeah, I was very happy to hear that.
And that’s on an inspiration level. I’m not saying that there’s like any kind of one-to-one, that is just is my personal experience.
That would be quite a scandal if someone took it the other way.
[Laughs] Yeah. So don’t do that! But, I did have other sitcoms. I mean, I loved Designing Women and Golden Girls.
Designing Women was amazing. Golden Girls, obviously, but we don’t talk enough about Designing Women.
I agree with you. I really loved that show. There was an episode where Suzanne Sugarbaker, Delta Burke, she was off the show for reasons. And they said she had Dutch Elms disease. Oh, man, was that funny. What a ridiculous concept, that she has Dutch Elms Disease. I remember my parents laughing. And when I was younger, everything for me was about trying to unlock comedy, and I didn’t get the joke entirely. And they had to explain to me that it was a disease of trees and that’s why it was funny. Oh God.
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