It may look like a walnut

WandaVision is by far the best thing on television right now. I am very sad that next week will be the final episode.

One great thing about WandaVision is its precise and knowledgable references to classic moments in television culture going back well over half a century. Last night’s penultimate episode was no exception.

One of the things it referenced was my favorite episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Season 2, Episode 20 (first airing, February 6, 1963). I hadn’t seen this episode since I was a kid, but today — thanks to the wonders of streaming — I sat down and watched it again, and fully appreciated for the first time what a great parody it is of The Twilight Zone.

It can be difficult to explain now the particular appeal that The Twilight Zone had on America back then, and how deeply the creative tone of paranoia crafted by Rod Serling tapped into our nation’s Cold War fears. It’s even more difficult to explain how formally innovative it was at the time for a light-hearted sitcom to parody The Twilight Zone.

So now I realize how meta is the reference to that particular episode. When you crack open a walnut, you expect to find a walnut — but sometimes you find something completely different.

Episode 20 in Season 2 of The Dick Van Dyke Show moved the ball boldly forward on what can be done within a television show. It may look like a walnut, but it’s so much more.

Just like WandaVision.

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