WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS S1
EPISODE 1: “PILOT”
Starring: Kayvan Novak, Harvey Guillen, Natasia Demetriou, Mark Proksch, and Matt Berry
Written by: Jemaine Clement
Directed by: Taika Waititi
“People would say, “Oh, no! Don’t pillage me!” and I would say, “Nooooo! I’m pillaging EVERYONE! You INCLUDED!”.
“They would call me Nandor the Relentless. Because I…would just never relent…”
The best vampire movie of 2014 becomes the best TV comedy of 2019 in the premiere of FX’s What We Do in the Shadows. Brought to the small screen by the original creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, along with a stocked crew of comedy greats like Atlanta’s Stefani Robinson and host of The Best Show, Tom Scharpling, this new version retains all the goth charm and big laughs of the movie. Focusing on another “cell” of vampires that reside in Staten Island, this new version stakes a hilarious new territory claim in this universe. Now just at a weekly pace, instead of a feature. I am way into it. I think you will be too. Let’s get into it.
Those familiar with the movie will recognize the format, but the show also does a pretty great job of establishing (or re-establishing) it early. An unseen documentary crew is embedded with a coven of vampires and their human familiars and follows them as they live the undead life. Also, like the movie, it gives the whole ensemble a curtly funny introduction and starts to dive into their routine and dynamic. We have Nandor (Kayvan Novak), a fussy, self-important former warlord. Sharing the house with him is Nadjia and Lazlo (Natasia Demetriou and Matt Berry), an on-again-off-again bi couple that have some of the episode’s best gags and lines.
Rounding out the cast is a new addition to the universe, an energy vampire! Played by Better Call Saul’s Mark Proksch, this species of vampire can drain you and other blood-sucking variety of vamps of their energy and vigor. It is a neat little inverse of the normal vampire and shows that the TV version is willing to try new things with the property which is really fun.
And better than that, the show, at the very least the pilot episode, is super goddamn funny. Taking the same mockumentary approach adds the same sincerely absurdity to the story, amping up the jokes and (in)humanity of the show. After rising to a late message (it came in the morning) that their master is visiting from the Old Country, the cell starts to prepare, Nandor buying some party supplies and Lazlo and Nadjia preparing to flirt their fangs off to get back into the Master’s favor.
There is also a really funny C-story of Nadjia stalking a nightwatchman, who looks like a man she killed in her early life as a vampire. The whole structure of the episode is really funny, but the cast assembled absolutely make it sing. If you have seen Matt Berry in anything ever, he brings it once again here and has a tremendous sparring partner in Demetriou.
The rest of the cast rise to the material as well. Kayvan Novak’s Nandor is an imposing, but cartoonishly huffy figure and he has a really funny dynamic with his human familiar, Guillermo (a hysterically put-upon Harvey Guillen). The casting of Mark Proksch is also a really fun feint. Though he is usually plays the stooge in shows, making him a weather vane of misery and annoyance continually delivers, even amid the vampires. Basically, if you loved the movie, you are going to love the TV show. Even better, it completely builds out the universe in fun, unexpected ways — a far cry from a cheap, cash-grabby TV version.
We are going to keep our eyes on What We Do in the Shadows, but if the “Pilot” is any indication, this show is going the dark distance with laughs, ideas, and truly clever scripts. All that plus a super hot, immensely funny cast. What more could you goths want?! Until next time, bloodsuckers, be seeing you.