How I Fell In Love With What We Do In The Shadows
As those of you who follow me are aware, I have the unfortunate habit of falling behind on brilliant series and then deciding to ignore them. This is a habit that is more related to comedies than dramas. I came almost too late to properly enjoy Veep and Parks & Recreation and I completely missed the boat on Modern Family and The Middle.
But the network I’ve come to the latest when it comes to original comedies is FX. I missed the first season of Atlanta (I did get caught up on it) and the first two seasons of Better Things (didn’t, but still enjoy it). But one of the bigger series I missed the first two seasons of was the zany New Zealand Jemaine Clement- Taiki Waititi collaboration What We Do In The Shadows. For this I have no excuse. Clement is a truly gifted a truly gifted master of the bizarre comedy and his film was so beloved I understand why it was it turned into a TV series. When it dominated the Critics Choice Awards and earned 10 Emmy nominations last year, I realized it was a phenomenon that I should look at — when I had time. I finally found time when Season3 premiered a few weeks. I get it now.
For those of you who don’t know, the TV adaptation of What we Do in the Shadows deals with a group of vampires who have ‘lived’ together on Staten Island for over a hundred years. There’s Nandor (Kayvan Novak), the most ‘traditional’ vampire (Carpathian warlord) Nadja, (Natasia Demetriou) his on and off companion and Laszlo (Matt Berry) a British, sex-obsessed vampire. These are all traditional ‘blood-suckers’. Colin Robinson is an energy vampire, who looks and sounds a lot like their accountant. Helping them get through their day, which is a bigger challenge then you’d think is Guillermo (the wondrous Harvey Guillen) who has become their ‘familiar’ and bodyguard. Basically he keeps them going.
It should be remarked that this group are terrible at what they do. In the second season climax, they were tried for various crimes by the vampire council and Guillermo helped slaughter that council. The group was so terrified of Guillermo, they locked him in a cage in a basement for a month and spent that month trying to decide whether to kill him or let him live. Guillermo very quickly got out of his cage, and spent that same month doing everything they needed to survive. In the third season premiere, The Guide (Kristen Schaal, hysterical beyond belief) came to their home to announce that the superior council had named the new vampiric council which stunned everybody — including The Guide. “It’s above my paygrade,” she shrugged. Guillermo was promoted to bodyguard and the vampires have now been given all kinds of relics, which should terrify the world because they don’t know how to operate a VCR.
This is just as brilliant as the other FX comedy, but the reason they work so well is because they often have a sense of real world to them. What We Do in the Shadows is just blissfully funny. These vampires are so bad at handing the world that you really wonder how they lasted all these centuries. In a memorable stint last week, Colin and Laszlo found Laszlo’s old car (there were only three models made, one of which Henry Ford gave to Mussolini). They couldn’t find a way to get it out, so they dismantled it piece by piece and brought it out of the library, shattering half the relics. They got it completely reassembled before a furious Guide screamed at them for this and for not noticing the Giant Red Door Opener that was there.
This week’s hysterical episode saw them going to Atlantic City for the vow renewal of their next door neighbor, every moment of which was hysterical. There was ‘The Rat Pack’ showing up which delighted Nadja because she used to hang with them and she was so thrilled to see them, she didn’t notice among other things ‘Frank Sinatra’ was Chinese. Nandor was fascinated by The Big Bang Theory slot machine, until he asked what The Big Bang Theory was. After Colin explained it to him, he was utterly shattered. (He’d thought Earth rested on the backs of four elephants on the back of a turtle.) All of which got them so upset when their native soul, which they needed to rest was vacuumed away while Colin was binge watching ‘his favorite show’ (the TV advertisement for the hotel.) This lead to the vampires going through insomnia and probably intentionally, sounding like the kinds of vampires we’ve been used in twentieth century fiction. (They’d only been awake for fourteen hours.)
If there is a flaw in What We Do in the Shadows, it’s that it pretty much completes the demystification of vampires that Buffy the Vampire Slayer started twenty five years ago. Joss Whedon made them brooding, Alan Ball and True Blood made them sexy, and this series makes them morons. There are those who might tried to read some political views into this show — the fact that these moronic vampires keep failing upward and the utter failings of the entire society of vampires in general is becoming just as woke the old society. You want to read into that, go ahead. I prefer to see it as a simply sublime and joyous comedy that proves, once and for all, that vampires are capable of being as idiotic as the rest of society. There’s something strangely human about that. In the meantime to quote Entertainment Weekly, ‘slay on, Guillermo.’
My score: 4.75 stars.