A popular TV genre gets a reboot, thanks to the comic genius of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.
What We Do in the Shadows (SoHo2, Sky 210, Thursday, 7.30pm) is again overseen by Clement and Waititi, but this time, with the backing of US network FX, it is set on New York’s Staten Island and features a different set of vampires.
Even though Clement, Waititi and Jonathan Brugh stamped their mark on the movie, it doesn’t seem wrong to have new characters – after all, if there are a vampires (and werewolves) in Wellington, why wouldn’t there be creatures of the night elsewhere?
Clement says the idea arose while they were making the movie: “A Housewives of … series, where you could go to different places and do different groups of vampires.”
The characters of Nandor (Kayvan Novak) and Laszlo (Matt Berry) have similarities to Waititi and Clement’s Viago and Vladislav, but sharing the lead is Natasia Demetriou as Nadja. Plus, an entirely new undead sucker has been created for the series: “energy vampire” Colin (Mark Proksch), who drains people’s energy just by talking to them. Everyone knows one.
There’s also Nandor’s put-upon familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) and a cameo by the amazing Doug Jones, who was the amphibious creature in The Shape of Water (and, for the nerds, Saru in Star Trek: Discovery).
As with the movie, the 10-part TV series takes the form of an observational documentary, in which a crew follows the vampires and their associates as they negotiate their living arrangements and intersect with modern life.
It’s the same juxtaposition of the horrifying and the mundane: please don’t leave half-drunk people in the basement, Nandor asks his flatmates. Drain them fully before moving on to a new victim.
There’s plenty of vampire-movie influences and references, and Clement and Waititi say the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster is in the mix. Scaling down the movie for TV has not been a problem.
Says Clement: “People think of television as smaller scale, but it’s actually larger, because you have to have so many different stories. I love that.”
There is also the tantalising prospect of character crossovers. Who knows? Maybe officers Minogue and O’Leary will turn up on Staten Island. “It’s possible.”
This article was first published in the March 23, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.