Movies & TV / Reviews

What We Do In The Shadows FX TV Premiere Review

March 9, 2019 | Posted by Ashish
What We Do in the Shadows (Credit: John P Johnson/FX)
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
What We Do In The Shadows FX TV Premiere Review  

FX premiered their highly anticipated first episode of the What We Do In The Shadows TV series at SXSW 2019 on Friday night to raucous laughter from a crowd that ate up the awkward absurdity that the show pulled off well in its pilot. Shot in mockumentary style like The Office, the show focuses on three vampires, Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), who have lived together for hundreds of years in a house in Staten Island, avoiding assimilation into the human world and avoiding what their original task was — to take over the New World. Also living in the home are Guillermo (Harvey Guillen), Nandor’s “familiar” i.e. his slave, and Colin (Mark Proksch), an “energy vampire.”

The rules don’t drift too far from what you’d except of vampires — they drink blood, avoid sunlight, can turn into bats, etc. A few wrinkles are thrown in here and there — Colin’s “energy vampire” doesn’t drink blood but instead gets his sustenance from boring or annoying his victims as a way to sap their energy. These are the most common type of vampire and we probably all know one, Colin assures us in the pilot.

These vampires are far from the glamorous, oh-so-serious versions that we’ve seen in the past. They are lazier, spend a lot of time bickering over mundane things, go grocery shopping, watch Twilight, and live mostly bland lives until an elder vampire visits them and makes it clear that it’s now time for them to take over Staten Island.

The larger take-over plot doesn’t really get going in any depth in the pilot, but the internal dynamics of this group of vampires, their really entertaining bickering, and the mockumentary style that allows the show to suck the seriousness out of the vampire stereotypes and shine some serious sunlight on the inherent absurdity of vampires living in modern day Staten Island, works hilariously well and makes the vampires into relatable, almost-human subjects instead of intimidating shrouds of mystery. Like Michael Scott and the rest of the characters on The Office benefitted from so much, the straight-to-camera interviews and documentary shooting style allow the show to bring out out an authenticity and awkwardness from the vampires that has a ton of comedic value. The only difference though, and it’s a difference that has potential pitfalls, is that The Office had a balanced cast of characters (Dwight was over-the-top, but Jim was normal; Michael was over-the-top, but Pam was normal; Scranton was a normal town) that offered contrast while pretty much every character in the pilot of Shadows is over-the-top, with an entirely over-the-top premise of taking over Staten Island. The Office used over-the-top settings as well such as Schrute Farms, and injected over-the-top characters like cousin Mose to mix things up at times, but an entire series set on Schrute Farms probably wouldn’t work. The same dynamic is at play here — it’s like Schrute Farms on steroids.

The challenge for What We Do In The Shadows will be to take a premise that seems better suited for a movie (and obviously this show WAS a movie first, 2014’s What We Do In The Shadows which was created by the same team behind this series) and extend it to a series that can last. Jokes that play on vampire stereotypes will only work for so long and how the show keeps it all fresh without it seeming like a gimmick that has run its course will be fascinating to see. Creator Jermaine Clement has smartly included two more “human” characters to add context to the over-the-top vampires in Guillermo and Colin (who is a vampire but acts like a normal, boring human), both of whom deliver a lot of the pilot’s laughs, and Clement hinted at other unique characters that will come as the series goes on.

Those future challenges aside though, the pilot feels unique, intriguing, and funny, and the mockumentary format feels vibrant and interesting again when combined with this material (especially after it became overused with shows like Modern Family). Fans of the 2014 film will love the foundation that the pilot sets. The show has created an interesting world and inhabited it with engaging characters and a unique premise that should be fascinating to follow.

The final score: review Good
The 411
What We Do In The Shadows delivers a unique, funny pilot that brings the mockumentary format back to life. The characters are endearing, the premise has potential, and the world is an interesting setting for a series. Is there enough material here for a long-running series though? That remains to be seen and some skepticism on that front is warranted, but for now, it's a promising start.

article topics :

What We Do in the Shadows, Ashish