by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nshaffer@timespublications.com

 

What We Do in the Shadows
Created by Jemaine Clement
Starring: Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, Mark Proksch
Rated TV-MA


Back for Season 2 is What We Do in the Shadows, the FX comedy-horror series (also available on Hulu) about a trio of vampires just trying to get by in Staten Island. Ottoman soldier Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Romani Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and her English nobleman husband, Laszlo (Matt Berry), continue to navigate the mundane and mystical alike with the same absurdly hilarious results that delighted fans when it debuted in 2019.

In truth, the series isn’t as funny as the 2014 film of the same name — and how could it be? Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement wrote, directed and starred in the original What We Do in the Shadows, and their deft touch with dialogue combined with exceptional onscreen chemistry and comedic timing isn’t easily duplicated. As talented as the television actors are, you just can’t improve upon perfection.

Having said that, the series still brings plenty of laughs, and has an energy all its own. Clement (credited as the creator; Waititi directed three episodes and serves as executive producer) was smart to set the show in a different location with a fresh cast of characters, giving it room to breathe and distinguish itself from its wildly popular predecessor. Nadja brings a welcome woman’s perspective, and it’s fun to see the vampire world through the eyes of familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) — eyes that become more and more jaded over time. An endless parade of guest stars — Tilda Swinton, Wesley Snipes, Benedict Wong, Dave Bautista, Craig Robinson, Evan Rachel Wood, several Saturday Night Live alumni — further enrich this farcical feast.

The best addition, however, is Colin, an “energy vampire” that feeds by sucking the will and motivation out of others by boring or aggravating them — a wet blanket turned up to 11. Mark Proksch (The Office, Better Call Saul) is exceptional at capturing Colin’s polite, droning toxicity as he haunts cubicle farms, city council meetings, buses and more. His Season 1 encounter with an emotional vampire is a thing of sidesplitting (and terrifyingly familiar) beauty. Do such creatures walk among us? Best not to ask. 

Now in its second season, What We Do in the Shadows is hitting its stride, introducing other beings that add mischief to the comedy magic. A necromancer, a New York hipster/cider entrepreneur turned zombie and ghosts all come out to play with our vampires. There’s even a haunted doll, who makes for a droll companion for Nadja, desperate for some intelligent, non-male company after hundreds of years. Episode 3, which just aired on April 23, has our vampires attending what they think is a neighborhood Superb Owl Party . . . which goes exactly as well as you’d expect.

Despite the mockumentary format and horror in its DNA, What We Do in the Shadows is, in essence, a paranormal sitcom, more Friends than True Blood — and that’s not a bad thing. There’s plenty of comedy to be mined from supernatural beings beset by the same relationship complications and trivial annoyances encountered by mere mortals. Old flames, irritating neighbors, marital squabbling, unfortunate encounters with Animal Control (as when Laszlo ends up in the pound in bat form), the frustrations of dealing with city council or being the nerd at the popular kids’ table — there’s no escape from the everyday indignities of life, even for the undead.

Out of the Box is a semi-regular column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.