What we do in the Shadows (TV): A Pleasant Surprise
Like so many other fans of the original film, when a sequel to Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s hysterical vampire comedy was announced in 2017, I mourned and worried over its quality. When it was revealed that the sequel would in fact take the form a series, I worried even more. Bit by bit, my fears were slightly assuaged, first when we were told that Waititi and Clement would still be heavily involved in the show’s production, and even more so when I learnt of the show’s cast, the majority of whom were British comedians that I was already a fan of: Natasha Demitriou, Kayvan Novak and most of all, the comedy powerhouse Matt Berry. But I wasn’t entirely convinced. I mean, what if it wasn’t as good as I was hoping and I lost faith in all these people I idolised? But the 19th of May rolled around and the first two episodes were shown in BBC2, and completely demolished all my fears. The fact the show was American made didn’t dampen the painfully funny dead-pan and dry humour I so loved from the original film.
Concepts from the film were explored again in the series but to the greater extent that is allowed by 10 half-hour episodes and as such the world feels more real and built up. In the series, we are treated to more insight on the feud between vampires and werewolves and the resulting truce borne from the ending of the film.
While the film did feature familiars, the show lets them shine in the form of Guillermo, the hopeless vampire wannabe played to great effect by Harvey Guillen. Guillermo is also the painstakingly devout familiar of Nandor (Kayvan Novak of Phone-jacker and Four Lions fame), a royal “conqueror” from a bygone Ottoman empire, struggling with anonymity, the modern world and only having control over their street and part of Ashley Street. He shares his Staten Island home with two vampires that have been married for hundreds of years: Lazlo (played by the ever incredible Matt Berry) and Nadja (portrayed by relative British comedy newbie Natasia Demetriou). These unceasingly perfect performances are mixed in with equally fun and exciting (if you’re as geeky as I am about this sort of thing) cameos and guest appearances throughout including Nick Kroll as a rival vampire in Manhattan, the legendary Doug Jones in his usual amount of prosthetics as an ancient Barron and most interesting, a special episode that includes a plethora of familiar faces, including those of the original cast of the Film.
The somehow completely over the top yet straight-faced comedy we’ve come to expect from the brilliant minds of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi shines through in the series as much as it did in the film and refuses to disappoint. While their first attempt at serialising the world of their own special type of vampires – Wellington Paranormal – was by no means bad, it didn’t manage to capture the absurdity and fantastical mundanity of the supernatural as it appears to Clement and Waititi as well as the film’s namesake series.
An incredibly funny, witty and binge-able redux of a modern classic that will have you quoting Nandor’s iconic line “I drank some blood of some people but the people were on drugs and now I'm a wizard” among countless others. If I took anything away from the series, it’s that the great Waititi never disappoints.