When Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire comedy movie What We Do in the Shadows debuted in 2014, it didn’t cross my mind that it would make a good sitcom. Yes, it was brilliantly funny, but the subject matter – a nest of absurd, theatrical bloodsuckers living in a houseshare – was so off-the-wall that I wouldn’t have imagined it would make as perfect a transfer to TV as it has. Better as a one-off cult movie, you’d be forgiven for thinking.
But when the small-screen edition of What We Do in the Shadows first came to our screens in 2019, it was so perfectly formed you’d have thought it had been running for years. Starring Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak and Natasia Demetriou as a new gang of vampires living in New York, the first season was a hilarious mix of absurd camp comedy and classic horror tropes, all laced with showrunner Clement’s trademark dry humour.
Now, Laszlo, Nandor and Nadja – along with “energy vampire” Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) – are back for a second run of episodes on BBC Two, with all 10 episodes also dropping on BBC iPlayer as a box set on June 11th. And happily there’s not a hint of the Difficult Second Album to be found as the series grows in confidence and scope while still delivering regular belly laughs.
In the first four episodes alone the series smartly subverts old stereotypes of necromancy and séances as the gang raise a familiar from the dead and confront ghosts from their past, while later stories see them absurdly arrive at a ‘Superb Owl’ party in their medieval finery and fear the curse of an old-school chain email.
Further on, we’re promised a spotlight on the droning Colin Robinson (a vamp who drains energy rather than blood) as he grows in power as well as Berry’s courtly Laszlo Cravenworth, who attempts to reinvent himself as a good-time American bartender named “Jackie Daytona” in a ridiculously deadpan storyline starring Star Wars’ Mark Hamill.
There’s also something of a throughline when it comes to meek wannabe vampire and “familiar” Guillermo, who discovered his slaying heritage at the end of season one. Despite his longstanding dream to become a creature of the night, he keeps accidentally plunging stakes into the hearts of any fiends who cross his path, leading to increased tension with his master Nandor (Novak).
But as ever, it’s the littler moments that make What We Do in the Shadows really sing – the fearsome reputation and dramatic self-absorption of the vampires crossed with the mediocre events of their day-to-day (or rather night-to-night) existences. The sight of a bejewelled, coiffed supernatural being sitting uncomfortably on the sofa of a neighbour – or Matt Berry’s unrepeatable pronunciation of Tucson, Arizona.
Yes, this series is at its best when the stakes are low (sorry). And with another season already confirmed, we can only be fangful (sorry again) that there’s yet more fun to be had with the ghouls of Staten Island.
What We Do in the Shadows begins airing on Tuesday 11th June on BBC Two, and the entire series is available on BBC iPlayer on the same date – check out what else is on with our TV Guide