“What We Do in the Shadows” (10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX) is way too gloomy a title for a wickedly funny mockumentary about vampires in modern-day New York. It’s based on a 2014 New Zealand film and adapted by the movie’s co-writers and directors, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Only instead of living in Wellington, the vampires in the TV show reside in NYC boroughs, with the main characters ensconced in Staten Island.
These are your typical vampires. They suck blood, shun daylight, turn into bats. But in the 21st century, they are the ultimate misfits: ancient creatures who are flummoxed by the challenge of adapting to the modern world while remaining true to vampiric traditions.
For example, what do you wear to a swanky Manhattan vampire bash? Capes, right? But vampire Laszlo’s (Matt Berry) cape gets stuck in the door of their Uber. “Well yank it out,” says companion Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) in her throaty Transylvanian accent. The car pulls off, dragging Laszlo and cape along the street.
Then it turns out they’re the only caped vampires at the party! One snarky vampire declares: “I see you in your capes, and I think you haven’t lost your senses of humors!”
Meanwhile, they have a mission to fulfill: taking over Staten Island.
Off they go by city bus to a council meeting, where the warrior Nandor (Kayvan Novak), with a mane of hair and full beard, declares: “Greetings, mortals. I will make this quick. I hereby demand complete and total supplication of this government body to my command.” The no-nonsense chairwoman tells Nandor the meeting is for zoning ordinances only and suggests he return at the next open session.
The brilliance of the show is the way it takes these mighty supernatural beings and reveals how, really, they are pretty much like the rest of us: defeated by bureaucracy, bewildered by the ever-changing world and full of dreams that will never be realized — like “free but compulsory harpsichord concerts.”
The only suggestion I can think of to improve “Shadows” is to change the title to “The Real Vampires of Staten Island.”