The good of the sitcom, those that last over time, is that they become a kind of home for the viewer. It doesn’t matter if one episode is better than another, if one plot is more interesting than another, or if some other gag doesn’t work: you watch an episode of ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Friends’, ‘office‘ or ‘No one lives here’ to live in there for a while. His characters accompany us when we are bored, tired or sad, and they comfort us.
‘What we do in the shadows’ has that power. That’s one of the (many) funny things about this series, available on HBO Max: the affable and slightly goofy characters in this sit-com are a handful of vampires, bloodsucking killers who spend their immortal existence sprawled out on the worn sofas of a dilapidated mansion in a boring New York City suburb. It is both the story of a handful of roommates who put up with each other day after day (or rather, night after night) after centuries of living together, that of a dysfunctional family that, despite everything, stays together, and that of a group of supernatural creatures that show us an amazing and terrifying world with a certain reluctance and disinterest.
That is another key: ‘What we do in the shadows’ is a fake documentary. Throughout its four seasons (at the moment, it is renewed for two more), the vampires Nandor, Nadja and Laszlo, their familiar (that is, human slave) Guillermo and the energy vampire Colin Robinson make their lives in front of the cameras, as in a mixture of ‘The Karadshian’, ‘Rich Women of Beverly Hills’ and ‘The castle of wonderful minds’. It’s all very seedy and a little sad, as was ‘The Office’, and that’s the funny thing: the series feeds on the topics of the vampire genre (they feed on blood, they can’t get the sun, they turn into bats ) to talk about a handful of mediocre individuals a little tired of the routine of being themselves, but slaves to it. And that is very human. So sees it Taika Waititi: “Humans are so stupid and boring and lazy that if we were given the gift of immortality, we would end up doing nothing with it. We would go postponing everything “.
Waititi is producing the series, created by Jemaine Clement (one of ‘The Conchords’) from the movie of the same title that they both wrote and starred in. ‘What we do in the shadows‘, a mockumentary about the lives of vampires in modern New Zealand, became a cult title and had a television spin-off in the New Zealand series, ‘Wellington Paranormal’. Then producer Scott Rudin saw the potential for an American version and convinced Taika Waititi and FX. This is how the series was born, which since 2019 and over four seasons has been expanding its universe, delving into its characters and fine-tuning their skills. The reviews are getting better every year: the first season had 94% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, 98% the second, and from there they have gone to a full 100% in the third and fourth.
Everything in it is in a state of grace, from the scripts (which Clement signs along with other writers such as the current showrunners, Paul Simms and Stefani Robinson) to the direction and camera team, which has to chase the actors while they interpret, and improvise. , their interactions with each other and with the recording crew. The interventions on camera are stupid and hilarious like those of ‘Paquita Salas’ or Valerie Cherish from ‘The Comeback’. The mythical complicit gazes of John Krasinski in ‘The Office’ have heirs here in the fantastic Natasia Demetriou or the long-suffering Harvey Guillén.
Because there is no comedy that manages to enter the history of television without a handful of unforgettable performances. ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ stars five incredible actors: Kavyan Novak as the ridiculous ringleader Nandor, Matt Berry as the pansexual hedonist Laszlo (in a role nailed to his ‘The Computer Guys’), Demetriou as the sadist and egotistical Nadja, Guillén as Guillermo, the familiar who has a slight crush on Nandor, and Mark Proksch as the energy vampire Colin Robinson, one of the best characters on recent television. His power is to suck people’s energy by boring themand his hilarious scenes feeding on his officemates could be a kind of spin-off of ‘The Office’.
The best thing about the series is its ability to subvert vampiric clichés, and to generate humor from the clash between opposites (fiction and reality, violence and ingenuity). The house they live in and the clothes they wear are gothic and ancient looking, but they are dusty and unkempt. They are twilight vampires moving in a gray world, visiting town hall meetings, going shopping at the supermarket that opens 24 hours, trying to hide their nature from the neighbors (or hypnotizing them so they don’t remember it). They have been in this world for centuries but they behave like a group of lazy and irresponsible university students. Corpses are left lying around the house, and Guillermo has to pick them up and bury them. They also battle werewolves and witches, or try to climb a vampire hierarchy made up of nightclubs and ancient councils.
It is just as subversive as a sit-com. Born in Trump’s United States, it stars a group of immigrants. The typical unresolved sexual tension relationship, like those of Ross and Rachel and Jim and Pam, here is between two men. Rather, between a vampire and his familiar: Nandor and Guillermo. And the recurring supporting characters are all manner of creatures, from a possessed doll to a living gargoyle to a charred vampire with only a head and half a torso left.
In 2020 ‘The Office’ was the most watched series in streaming in the United States, entering the list of sitcom who refuse to die beyond their end. I anticipate that ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ will join that group over the years, but I advise the viewer avid for good comedy to get hooked on it now, while it is broadcast. It is a source of joy and good humor, and there are not many of those today.