Wellington Paranormal Serves Plenty of Goofy Fun
Josh Bell
Wellington Paranormal Cast
Wellington Paranormal Cast
For a goofy mockumentary about inept vampires, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows has turned into a surprisingly extensive franchise. The U.S.-based spin-off series of the same name is headed into its third season on FX, and in Clement and Waititi's native New Zealand, their earlier spin-off series Wellington Paranormal has already completed three seasons. Wellington Paranormal's first three seasons will finally make their way to the U.S. on The CW and HBO Max this week. Fans of What We Do in the Shadows will be pleased to find more of the same dry wit, with slightly smaller-scale storytelling.
Wellington Paranormal centers on Officers Mike Minogue and Karen O'Leary, reprising their characters from 2014's What We Do in the Shadows. Portraying a pair of dim-witted local police officers in Wellington, New Zealand, Wellington Paranormal finds the duo nearly as oblivious to various other paranormal phenomena in their city -- even after they're officially assigned to a secret paranormal division of the New Zealand police force. If Minogue or O'Leary succeed in stopping any paranormal threats, it's almost certainly by accident.
Officers Minogue and O'Leary inadvertently stumble across a demonic possession in Wellington Paranormal's Episode 1. That's enough for their supervising officer, Sgt. Maaka (Maaka Pohatu), to recruit them into his classified paranormal division, which operates out of a closet-size room in the central Wellington police station. Maaka is dedicated to researching the paranormal, but Minogue and O'Leary are unimpressed. They agree to join the unit with the same level of enthusiasm they'd give to any other mundane required duty.
Wellington Paranormal
Wellington Paranormal
Over the course of the six-episode first season, Minogue and O'Leary encounter demons, aliens, ghosts, werewolves, vampires and zombies. They approach all of the cases with procedural banality, mainly interested in things like issuing citations for noise complaints to ghosts partying too loudly and making sure that trash is cleaned up after occult rituals. The stars consistently underplay the characters' reactions to supernatural encounters. Minogue and O'Leary offer low-key contrasts to the flamboyant vampires of What We Do in the Shadows. Clement and Waititi co-created Wellington Paranormal, with Clement directing half of the first season's episodes.
Like both versions of What We Do in the Shadows, Wellington Paranormal is presented in a mockumentary style. Appropriately for a show about law enforcement, the format here is closer to a reality show like Cops, complete with time and location stamps. One of the most consistently amusing running gags involves Minogue and O'Leary explaining their latest case to the camera in the blandest terms possible, reducing the mysteries of the universe to pending paperwork.
The humor here is more subdued than in What We Do in the Shadows, befitting the unassuming characters who just want to do their jobs with a minimum of fuss. The episodes of Wellington Paranormal are largely self-contained, with each one featuring a single paranormal event that is resolved (or forgotten about) by the episode's end. That makes for easy, undemanding viewing, but it also makes Wellington Paranormal feel a little inconsequential since even the dangerous entities that escape police custody never seem to cause any further harm.
The jokes are consistently funny, though, which is really the only thing that matters in a show like this. In its first episode, Minogue and O'Leary compare themselves to The X-Files' Mulder and Scully, but it's clear they know as little about those iconic paranormal investigators as they know about the paranormal. They're both skeptical of the theories posed by Sgt. Maaka, but not because of any rigorous scientific standards. It's just that they're too dumb to realize what's really going on with the majority of cases.
The characters are so affable that their cluelessness is part of their charm, and Minogue and O'Leary (the actors) have great chemistry with Pohatu as their exasperated but insecure supervisor, who is desperate for anyone to validate his interest in the supernatural. There's no word yet on when or if the next two seasons of Wellington Paranormal will make it to the U.S., but these six episodes are a worthy addition to the What We Do in the Shadows canon and should make American viewers eager to see more.
Starring Mike Minogue, Karen O'Leary and Maaka Pohatu, Wellington Paranormal airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW starting July 11, with episodes available on HBO Max the following day.