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“What We Do In The Shadows” Brilliantly Transitions To The Small Screen

Cult films are a dicey proposition to adapt for television. The mixture that came together and worked on screen the first time may not jive again for a return engagement. That goes for both adaptations and sequels, wherever they may land. In the case of What We Do in the Shadows, original co-creator Jermaine Clement has avoided all pitfalls. Instead of seeming tired or a needless rehash, this show is a romp that is unlike anything else on TV right now. The original flick was a charmer, but this could be even better before long. FX has something special on its hands. The show is an absolute laugh riot.

The show is based on the movie of the same name that Clement crafted with Taika Waititi. Essentially, this is a mockumentary about the undead residents of a home on Staten Island. The IMDb synopsis very simply sets things up like so: “A look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of four vampires who’ve lived together for over 100 years, in Staten Island.” For vampires Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadia (Natasia Demetriou), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak), they’ve spent a century in New York City’s forgotten borough. Essentially sent to colonize America, they’ve instead just been, well…hanging out. They live with energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch), as well as Nandor’s servant, or familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén). The pilot sets up the characters perfectly, hinting at the hilarity that will ensue. Waititi directed the pilot, while Clement wrote the teleplay. Guest stars on this first episode included Doug Jones (in what may be a recurring part) and Beanie Feldstein.

This is a really funny comedy. The combination of hum drum living on Staten Island mixed with the day to day life (or undead life, I suppose) of a vampire is often hilarious. Clement leans into the silliness too. This is hardly gritty or hard hitting. It’s just something that sets out to make you laugh, and laugh often. To that end, it’s a smashing success. The spirit of the film is totally honored, though this takes a different angle on the material. Essentially, the television show is a companion piece to the movie, both functioning separately with aplomb but each providing an added bonus for fans of the other.

The premise is essentially a gothic an even more ridiculous take on The Office. Again, what could easily have come off silly and unneeded is instead a breath of fresh air on television. Clement’s re-interpretation of the original film’s material feels both the same and different. Waititi’s direction of the pilot is as accomplished as what he did on the big screen. Profane and violent, but almost innocently silly, this is ridiculously entertaining stuff. Interestingly, it seems like the show is only scratching the surface of what it can achieve. The premise could be fuel for a very long television run if all goes well.

What We Do in the Shadows is one of the most enjoyable new shows on TV. If you like your comedy mixed with a little something different, this is something not to miss. We don’t discuss television too much here, but the small screen is certainly not lacking in top notch offerings. Especially if you enjoyed the film, this is something to seek out. That being said, affection for the movie is no prerequisite. Knowledge of the original is no barrier to entry. All comers are accepted. Take a look and once you see what goes on in the shadows, you’ll want to spend every week there, laughing the whole time…

Be sure to check out What We Do in the Shadows, seen every Wednesday night on FX!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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