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‘Wellington Paranormal’ Is Carrying the Hilarious ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Torch

The franchise's other TV spinoff has its own spirit, and there's plenty here for anyone in search of a perfect complement to its FX counterpart.

Wellington Paranormal — Episode 1— Image Number: WPN101_0005.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Minogue, Sergeant Maaka and O’Leary in the Wellington Paranormal office. Photo: Stan Alley/The CW —©2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“Wellington Paranormal”

Stan Alley/New Zealand Documentary Board Ltd

[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]

Where to Watch “Wellington Paranormal: HBO Max and The CW app

It’s not exactly a requirement that every comedy should have an episode where one actor plays at least two different characters. But if you want proof why it works, look no further than “Wellington Paranormal.” The first TV spinoff of the film version of “What We Do in the Shadows,” the New Zealand-set series has one of them in each of the two seasons currently available to stream stateside.

The show tracks the exploits of two Wellington police officers — Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary) — tasked with investigating curious incidents in and around the region. They track down zombies and demons and werewolves and plastic bags, all with their own distinct threat (or at least nuisance) to the locals. They’re sent off from the station and often joined in the field by Sergeant Maaka (Maaka Pohatu), whose daily briefings are a delight unto themselves.

In a broader sense, “Wellington Paranormal” features a spot-on blend of practical and comically digital effects. It features characters with a built-in stubbornness to work through whatever they don’t understand. Some of them are fiercely competent in a few areas and gleefully bumbling in others. And they’re all part of a show that knows just when to toy with the fake documentary conventions that frame it. If you didn’t know this show was part of a connected universe, this would be an ideal “What We Do in the Shadows” companion piece even before the supernatural bits start popping up.

And like “Shadows,” the team at the center works great as individuals and as a unit. Officer O’Leary has her own overriding streak of extreme politeness. (These are investigators using almost any other version of a last resort than force.) Officer Minogue is the gentle, occasionally egg-headed partner who always seems to at least mean well. The two of them are endearing together, mostly because they all know they’re projecting confidence in their abilities more than they might have it. They take pride in the one bit of decisive action that lets them stumble into the desired outcome. Really, that’s the story for Guillermo’s group of vampires, too.

That reflects the way that “Wellington Paranormal” works in tandem with its greater supernatural family, even if (as we’ve said before) it certainly stands on its own. Season 1 of the show features multiple episodes written or directed by series co-creator Jemaine Clement, while Season 2 (like its FX “What We Do in the Shadows” counterpart) reflects more of a group approach. As a whole, though, this has the same sharp sense of timing that the rest of the “Shadows”-verse has. “Wellington Paranormal” is a little looser in letting its actors play around with individual scenes, but there’s still a keen sense for when to cut between someone describing something peculiar and actually showing it.

That’s especially key for those episodes with the doubles, particularly the exponential mayhem in the Season 2 episode “Copy Cops.” One key difference in “Wellington Paranormal” is that there isn’t really the same voice of reason to cut through everything that “Shadows” has. Sergeant Maaka is the closest the show gets, but if he gets roped into the action (as is the case here), all bets are off. That episode, paired with the earlier “Cop Circles,” gets at how “Wellington Paranormal” thrives on things being just a tad off-kilter. Seeing this crew deal with a sentence that doesn’t land quite right or a building with one noticeable detail missing is where the best bits come from. Given that these characters have managed to skirt any grave circumstances so far, all the show needs is a small misunderstanding and mysterious floating object, and the magic can stay alive for a while.

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