If You're Not Watching 'Wellington Paranormal,' What Are You Even Doing?
New Zealand's 'What We Do in the Shadows' spinoff is wildly underrated in the states.
What We Do in the Shadows, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's hilarious horror mockumentary about a group of vampires living together in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand, was an instant classic when it premiered in 2014, and put the two writer-directors on the map internationally. It was such a hit that, much like the supernatural creatures of its subject matter, it didn't take long to spawn more, and Shadows has grown into a franchise spanning both film and television.
American fans likely already know about the fantastic TV version of What We Do in the Shadows, about vampires in Staten Island, whose third season is premiering later this summer, but all this time there was another popular spinoff series we in the States never had access to—until now. The CW (with episodes available the day after on HBO Max) is finally broadcasting Wellington Paranormal, the first Shadows spinoff and a long-running hit in New Zealand since 2018, and it is absolutely delightful.
Unlike either version of What We Do in the Shadows (or the upcoming sequel film We're Wolves), the main characters of Wellington Paranormal aren't supernatural at all. Rather, they're the two oblivious police officers, Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O'Leary (Karen O'Leary), we first met in the original film, whose inability to notice anything strange going on helped the vampire flatmates out of a tight spot. Wellington Paranormal is more X-Files than Vampire Diaries (even the title sequence sounds like the creepy X-Files theme), but the general conceit is that Minogue and O'Leary never actually get that there's something weird going on at all. The only character who does is Sergeant Ruawai Maaka (Maaka Pohatu), the police sergeant who drafted the two officers into his makeshift paranormal investigation outfit.
The fun, obviously, comes from the two affable yet hapless police officers "solving" paranormal mysteries while doing everything they can to explain away what's been going on. A girl possessed by a demon simply has laryngitis, and it's only a coincidence that the demon's name has popped up every few decades or so in the same town. Aliens messing about in a cornfield are just kids pulling pranks, and a werewolf is probably just a large dog in jeans. They get that they're bearing witness to things not of this realm, but their calm, overly rational demeanors and quick thinking (though in the complete wrong direction almost every time) keep them far from any actual danger, often bickering through any werewolf or ghost appearances altogether.
The show keeps the light tone of its parent film, tempering any actually horrific images—which do pop up—with that indescribably dry comedic style the Kiwis have mastered. The "documentary" aspect is cobbled together from handheld cameras and dashcam footage, and more than a few pointed looks straight into the camera. You may not trust Minogue and O'Leary to know exactly what they're doing, but you can be rest assured they'll solve whatever it is they're investigating in their own way. Probably without even realizing they did it.