REVIEWED: SEASON 2 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: BBC 2, BBC iPLAYER (FROM JUNE 11TH)
What We Do in the Shadows the movie took a brilliantly simple concept – a documentary crew embed themselves with a household of New Zealand vampires – with hilarious results, creating an instant cult classic, and catapulting Taika Waititi into the big leagues. The series (created by co-writer/director Jermaine Clement with frequent input from Waititi) transplants the concept to America – specifically New York’s Staten Island. There’s a new trio of vampires – former Ottoman general Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Romani peasant Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Laszlo (Matt Berry, basically playing Matt Berry). They live alongside Nandor’s human familiar (and aspiring vampire) Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), who feeds off people’s negative energy. The main joy of What We Do in the Shadows derives from taking these ridiculous, out-of-time characters and placing them in absurd situations which would baffle 21st century natives, let alone characters who have been around for hundreds of years.
Season 2 has these situations in abundance; the central trio find themselves meeting their own ghosts, visiting a Superb Owl party (that’s Superbowl to you and I), getting scammed by a dodgy necromancer (guest star Benedict Wong), re-encountering old familiars as well as problematic new ones, sperm-extracting witches, and the fantastic return of Laszlo’s cursed hat from Season 1. Special mention should go to the sixth episode – On the Run – which features a vampire called Jim (an inspired guest turn from superfan Mark Hamill), a girls’ volleyball team, a toothpick, and “Jackie Daytona, regular human bartender”. Elsewhere, hapless familiar Guillermo – who has spent the last decade waiting to be turned – is still processing his discovery that he’s a descendant of vampire arch-nemesis Van Helsing. To make matters worse, he’s also inherited his ancestor’s knack for killing vampires, albeit accidentally. And repeatedly. And it turns out he’s not the only vampire-hunter around…
All the leads are superb, but special mention should go to Matt Berry. Admittedly his humour isn’t for everyone and, yes, he does essentially only ever play the same eccentric, sex-crazed character, but he’s never been better, and his unique, absurdist line readings – not to mention his tendency to shout “Bat” every time he transforms – are a constant joy. Even better, however, is Proksch’s Colin Robinson – an inspired, very familiar creation. Whether he’s extolling the virtues of motion smoothing, mansplaining online, or experimenting with “humour,” the ultimate pub bore is the show’s secret weapon, effortlessly stealing every scene he appears. The episode where Colin receives a promotion in his mundane office job (lot of negative emotions there), and uses his new position to drain co-workers en masse is a masterpiece.
The movie was an instant classic, and the show manages the not-inconsiderable feat of surpassing it. It may well be the funniest show on TV. It’s definitely the only one to feature a giant troll penis, sexually frustrated ghosts, and pornographic topiary. Bat!