In today’s ever-expanding television landscape, it is all too easy for phenomenal shows to fall through the cracks. As more and more A-list actors migrate to the small screen, critical buzz and praise seems to focus the majority of its attention on such powerhouse productions. However, amidst all this glitz and glamor hides one of television’s funniest, most creative, and underrated comedies: “What We Do in the Shadows.” This FX series, available to stream on Hulu, is currently airing its third season. And just as the first two seasons were masterclasses in niche, absurdist humor, the third season soars at every turn.
“What We Do In The Shadows” is based on the 2014 film of the same name and follows the day-to-day lives of four vampires and their human assistant (known as a “familiar”) living in modern day Staten Island. As previously stated, this show is a tad absurd. However, its unabashed embracing of its own ridiculousness is what makes this show so wonderful.
The third season mainly focuses on the vampires’ new role of leading their local chapter of the Vampiric Council, a mystical group that operates out of the dingy basement of an office building. Here, Kayvan Novak’s character Nandor and Natasia Demetriou’s Nadja constantly bicker over the question of who should be deemed the supreme leader of the council. The sharp and biting dialogue shared between these two characters is eerily reminiscent of similar exchanges between Selina Meyer and her advisors on acclaimed comedy “Veep,” an immense credit to the writers of this show. Moreover, this spoken humor is perfectly paired with physical gags — a scene in which Nandor and Nadja try to find a way to share the supreme leader’s throne is a standout moment in the entire season.
Accompanying Nandor and Nadja on all of their journeys is Laszlo, Nadja’s husband, who is arguably the unsung hero of Season Three. Played by actor Matt Berry, much of Laszlo’s humor is based on making crude, overly sexual comments at every turn. While such a schtick could get tired after one or two jokes, Berry’s perfect delivery and unmatched ability to vary his intonation in unexpected ways make every line a winner. And just as the third season sees Nandor team up with Nadja, viewers are treated to the pairing of Laszlo and Mark Proksch’s Colin Robinson, a so-called “energy vampire” who uses mundane conversations to suck out people’s energy instead of their blood. The combination of Laslzo’s brazen sense of humor and Colin Robinson’s extremely dry, dad-like personality is one of the most welcome additions of Season Three, a truly genius choice on behalf of brilliant creative team, including Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Look no further than the episode in which Laszlo and Colin try (and fail) to restore an antique car, humorously referred to as a jalopy, for evidence of this claim.
Besides standout performances from the show’s ensemble, “What We Do In The Shadows” also thrives due to its clever use of setting and cinematography. The show’s dark color palette and the gratuitously gothic setting of the vampires’ home successfully connects it to archetypal portrayals of vampires in popular culture. However, this depiction of vampire life is then humorously upended whenever the main characters find themselves in a brightly-lit grocery store, gym, or other typical twenty-first century setting. This visual gag of vampires in the real world is nowhere more prevalent than in the fourth episode of the third season, titled “The Casino.” In this episode, the whole cast of characters find themselves embarking on a journey to Atlantic City to celebrate their neighbors’ renewing their vows. The sight of Nandor, Nadja, and Laszlo, all sporting their dark and over-the-top vampire attire, and casually strolling past blackjack tables and slot machines is almost too good to be true. And the hijinks that ensue — Nandor becoming obsessed with a “The Big Bang Theory” themed slot machine, Laszlo and Nadja decorating the hotel room with a taxidermy bird brought from home, and Colin Robinson’s fascination with the promotional video for the casino — all cement this episode as the best of the season so far and one of the greatest of the entire series.
As its name suggests, “What We Do In The Shadows” does indeed lurk in the shadows of today’s star-studded television lineup, but that does not make it any less worthy of your attention. In fact, watching just one episode of this outlandish ensemble comedy will be enough to convince any viewer to keep watching what should rightly become one of the most popular shows on television.