Wellington Paranormal is the kind of Kiwi show we need more of

by Diana Wichtel / 18 July, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Wellington Paranormal

In Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's new show Wellington Paranormal, the capital is a hive of supernatural goings-on.

The ever-popular green projectile vomiting, the bumbling police duo, more slavering hellhounds than you could reasonably expect to encounter in Cuba Mall … Wellington Paranormal is a sort of daft, dim-witted younger sibling of What We Do in the Shadows, the 2014 movie that made the domestic life of hapless Wellington vampire flatmates into an international cult hit.

Not that What We Do in the Shadows wasn’t daft. If Aotearoa had vampires, they would no doubt squabble over washing up the bloodstained crockery in the manner of Jemaine Clement’s 862-year-old neck-chomper, Vladislav, and Taika Waititi’s relatively youthful 379-year-old Viago.

Now there’s a six-part television spin-off written by Clement and Waititi. Wellington Paranormal lacks the budget and decaying, period-costumed panache of the movie. It does keep the mockumentary format, though no one, as yet, has eyed up a member of the camera crew for supper. And there’s the welcome return of the movie’s officers, O’Leary and Minogue.

“In laymen’s terms,” explains Minogue, “we’re kind of like Mulder and Scully … She’s analytical, she’s got the brains. I’m a man with brown hair.”

The truth may be out there, but this lot wouldn’t know it if they tripped over it. They are sceptical when Sergeant Maaka introduces them to the station’s top-secret paranormal unit in a cupboard behind a bookcase. Ghosts? He’s got to be joking. “I don’t joke at work,” says Maaka. “Outside of work, I have an observational, absurdist sense of humour.”

Maaka is concerned about the apparently drunk young woman whom O’Leary and Minogue have picked up, the one with the green vomit and gravel-gargling hound-from-hell voice (“Need a lozenge?” asks Minogue, just before his young suspect spider-walks Exorcist-style up the interview room wall.) It’s possibly meant as a damning indictment of the technicolour horrors of Kiwi youth binge-drinking culture that Minogue and O’Leary don’t at first notice anything is amiss with the sulphurous young miss communing with Beelzebub in the patrol car’s back seat. After all, in these inclusive times, even the demonically possessed have their rights.

The girl introduces herself as “Bazu’aal of the Unholy Realm”. “Is that the Unholy Realm in Hataitai?” enquires Minogue. As the police mill about, the girl walks out of the station, allowing the demon to leave her and possess first her father, then her mother, then a cute demonic puppy … You get the idea. There is nothing subtle about Wellington Paranormal. The police chase scenes should be set to the theme song from The Benny Hill Show.

Police Ten 7 meets The X-Files,” went some optimistic pre-publicity. Competing with the absurdity of reality these days is always a big ask. Police Ten 7 produced characters as immortal as any vampire: the “Awww, gummon!” guy; the public-spirited constable who advised, “Always blow on the pie – safer communities together.” Hellhounds aside, Wellington Paranormal is more 80s Crimewatch. When the police aren’t looking for a gateway to hell under the iconic Cuba Mall Bucket Fountain, they’re investigating a heist involving a consignment of men’s trousers.

Still, Wellington Paranormal is good, knock-about fun. The core cast of cops – Karen O’Leary, Mike Minogue, Maaka Pohatu, Tom Sainsbury – do the deadpan business. And here is further evidence that we are a bunch of well-intentioned idiots with a dark side to which we are largely oblivious in a nation where no one is really in charge.

It’s good to see TVNZ, the network that famously failed, back in the day, to see the funny side of Flight of the Conchords, find a place for some of our top talent to goof around. Let’s hope this series opens the door for more.

WELLINGTON PARANORMAL, TVNZ 2, Wednesday, 8.30pm.

This article was first published in the July 21, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

What's happening to New Zealand's recycling after the China import ban?
96784 2018-09-25 13:50:58Z Environment

What's happening to New Zealand's recycling after …

by Nita Blake-Persen

Tracing exactly where New Zealand's plastic goes when it leaves our ports is incredibly difficult.

Read more
How heart surgeon Alan Kerr saved a woman's life twice in three decades
96715 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Social issues

How heart surgeon Alan Kerr saved a woman's life t…

by Donna Chisholm

Renowned surgeon Alan Kerr saved Donna Lander’s life in 1987. This year – thanks to a Listener story and a three-line email – he saved her again.

Read more
What the principal missed: How truancy is the symptom of a toxic environment
96763 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Social issues

What the principal missed: How truancy is the symp…

by Aaron Hendry

A principal's controversial speech on truancy dangerously ignored the issues today's young people face, writes youth development worker Aaron Hendry.

Read more
Fighting fast fashion: the rise of ethical consumerism
95853 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Business

Fighting fast fashion: the rise of ethical consume…

by Mina Phillips

In the era of fast fashion, what can consumers do to ensure what they're buying hasn't been made by exploited workers?

Read more
Naseby's chilliest night means a rare opportunity for curling
96697 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Sport

Naseby's chilliest night means a rare opportunity …

by Guy Frederick

Weather conditions have to be perfect for an outdoor curling match – last winter, for the first time in seven years, Naseby delivered.

Read more
Students walk out of Hamilton high school over principal's truancy comments
96723 2018-09-24 14:06:35Z Education

Students walk out of Hamilton high school over pri…

by RNZ

More than 100 students walked out of a Hamilton high school in protest after the principal said truants are more likely to wind up being a rape victim

Read more
Colin Craig drops damages claim against former press secretary
96717 2018-09-24 13:10:01Z Politics

Colin Craig drops damages claim against former pre…

by RNZ

Colin Craig has withdrawn his claims for damages against his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor but is still suing her for defamation.

Read more
PM in New York: Ardern's first speech focuses on lifting children from poverty
96691 2018-09-24 07:54:36Z Politics

PM in New York: Ardern's first speech focuses on l…

by Chris Bramwell

Jacinda Ardern has used her first speech in the US to recommit the government to making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

Read more