What We Do in the Shadows is one of the true cult classics of our day. The brilliant horror/comedy released in 2014 beautifully takes a look at pop culture's neverending obsession with vampires and shines a bright, silly light on the whole thing. Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) have thankfully been talked into revisiting this universe as a TV series. This time, they've brought the action to America and it looks like this is going to be a real treat for those who love the movie, and for an entirely new, wider audience.
FX debuted the first episode of their upcoming What We Do in the Shadows TV series at SXSW in Austin, Texas. I was lucky enough to catch the pilot for myself and, as a deep fan of the movie, I was painfully optimistic yet ever so cautious heading in. Bringing movies to the small screen is a mixed bag. Sometimes we get Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sometimes we get The Transporter. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. In this case, it seems that Clement and Waititi have managed to translate their comedic masterwork rather well.
It's clear that the network put the money they needed to into this thing. The production design is outstanding and this world feels deeply real and lived in, even though it's, at its center, absurd. Despite taking place in Staten Island, New York, as opposed to New Zealand, it still feels deeply true to what came before while setting itself apart. They've also done a great job of adding little layers to the story, without giving anything away, in this first episode, that showcase how they can drag this out over the course of ten episodes without making it feel like it's going to overstay its welcome. It all works. Everything fans of the movie want is in here and those who didn't see the movie will understand why those who have seen it do love it.
This series centers on an entirely new cast of characters, so those played by Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi and Jonny Brugh aren't returning for this new bout of vampire-related shenanigans. I'll be the first to admit, the sharp wit that these guys bring with them is unparalleled virtually anywhere, be it on the big or small screen (just look at Waititi's work as Korg in Thor: Ragnarok) so it would be a disservice to say their presence isn't missed at least a little bit. That said, this new cast of characters we're following is very entertaining and presents us with plenty of new threads to pull during the course of an entire season (and hopefully more) of a TV series.
Our new group includes Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nando (Kayvan Novak), Natasia Demetriou (Nadja), Harvey Guillen (Guillermo) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). Much like in the movie, this group exists in the same house and they've been roommates for hundreds of years. Even after all that time, and even though they're immortal beings who drink the blood of the innocent, they have the same problems we do. Again, not to give too much away, but in the first episode it's revealed that their leader from the old country isn't happy with their lack of conquering in the new world since their arrival.
This new group has a markedly different dynamic and different issues than Vladislav, Vlago and Deacon did in the movie. But the way in which it plays on the inherent ridiculousness of a group of vampires living in the modern world rings true. And, without spoiling the surprise, Mark Proksch plays a vampire the likes of which we've never seen as Colin that is arguably the most delightful thing about the show, as compared to the movie.
Pilots are tricky. They're a small sampling of what's to come and good shows often improve greatly beyond their pilot. That said, this first episode offers a lot of promise and hope that this could be just as good as what came before. And, if I may be so bold, perhaps even better as time goes one. What We Do in the Shadows debuts on March 27 on FX.