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Pandemic Bingewatch: What We Do In the Shadows
COVID-19 has removed a lot of time-wasters from my life, like my daily commute. Going out to restaurants. Shopping. Hanging out with friends. Taking care of family obligations.
There’s a lot I could be doing with that time. I could finally learn Spanish. Finish my novel. Clean my house. Finally learn to bake.
Yeah, I’ll get right on that. Right after I finish watching all of Law and Order: SVU, all of Criminal Minds, and finally watch those last ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy that I’ve been meaning to get around to.
That took me through the first few months of the pandemic. Then it was time to start wandering through the rest of the back catalog of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, and Disney Plus. And I might add HBO Plus if the pandemic shows no signs of abating.
Taika Waititi takes on vampires
First up: “What We Do in the Shadows.”
The premise is that a film crew, similar to the one from The Office, is doing a documentary about a group of vampires living mostly undercover among regular humans.
It was directed by Taika Waititi, the guy responsible for my favorite Avengers movie, “Thor: Ragnarok.”
But while there are plenty of superpowers and supernatural creatures and gorgeous costumes and sets, what really made me a fan was the deadpan humor, the lack of self-awareness, and the fundamental humanity of even the most horrible characters.
“What We Do in the Shadows” was first a movie, set in New Zealand. It is currently available for streaming from Prime Video.
It came out in 2014 and was funny and over-the-top, yet completely believable. If there were real vampires in the world, they’d be like these guys, not 104-year-old angst-ridden teenagers still going to high school.
I also think Spike was a lot more fun to watch than Angel, but moving on …
The movie was turned into a TV series, and the first season aired on FX in the spring of 2019, followed by the second season this year.
Waititi directed three of the episodes and even appeared in the show, reprising his role as a visiting vampire from New Zealand.
Now set in Staten Island, the serialized version reminded me even more of The Office. The vampires and their familiar have individual self-serving chats with the documentary crew, for example.
And the cameos are awesome, including Nick Kroll, Vanessa Bayer, Kristen Schaal, Dave Bautista, Tilda Swinton, Danny Trejo, Paul Reubens, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Mark Hamill, and Haley Joel Osment.
“What We Do in the Shadows” is a great binge watch. It’s light, funny, satirical, but not too involving and not at all stressful.
You can watch the show while, say, trying to learn how to bake, all alone, in your empty house. The show is good company and it doesn’t demand anything of you. There’s gore, but done with a light hand and plenty of humor, so it won’t keep you awake at night.
This was also a show I could watch at my own pace. It was perfectly fine to watch two or three episodes, then go to bed at a reasonable time so that I would be ready for my morning Zoom work calls.
Sure, it’s nice, once in a while, to find a show that’s so compelling, so edge-of-your-seat exciting, that you have to stay up all night watching it and then call in sick to work the next two days in a row so that you can finish it. But at my age, going to bed at a reasonable time is starting to appeal to me.
Oh, I forgot to mention — “What We Do in the Shadows” also has an awesome soundtrack.
There are currently two seasons of the show, which you can watch on Hulu, of 10 episodes each. Episodes are half an hour long, which, in practice, comes out to about 20 to 24 minutes.
The show has been renewed for a third season, which may come out next spring, COVID-19 permitting, of course. I’m looking forward to seeing it, since season two ended with a big cliffhanger and I’m interested in finding out how it all works out.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a little something something to tide you over, check out the video extras on FX’s show site.