How to watch Wellington paranormal in the US?
Warner Media picked up Wellington Paranormal in March, to offer the show to American viewers on CW and HBO Max. Stuff.co.nzAmerican critics hurl wisecracks at Kiwis after Wellington Paranormal debuts in the US
‘Wellington Paranormal’ Review: Supernatural Comedy Isn’t Just for ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Completists
11 July, 2021 - 01:20pm
Behind these character introductions is a synthy, self-aware theme tune that wouldn’t be out of place in a “news of the weird” local cable access roundup, or even a basic cable reality show about cryptids disguised as an investigative documentary. Fake news clippings flash across the screen, one of them with a headline including the word “Vampirey.” It’s unrepentantly goofy, with just enough of that mockumentary veneer to keep the show nominally hemmed in to a recognizable format.
In that way, this series (now airing in the U.S. on The CW after debuting back in 2018 on TVNZ 2 in New Zealand) is just distinguishable enough from both the film and TV versions of “What We Do in the Shadows.” Like those, “Wellington Paranormal” is co-created by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, with the latter serving as a director and co-writer on multiple Season 1 episodes. It’s the same broad idea, looking at the local population’s inability to handle the presence of supernatural forces hiding in plain sight throughout their community. But “Wellington Paranormal” takes the opposite view, with a “camera crew” tracking a single unit of this police force (first introduced in the film) continually called in to respond to most abnormal occurrences in the area.
Each episode tackles a new Greatest Hit of the unexplained. O’Leary and Minogue stumble across crop circles, haunted houses, demon possessions, and the natural consequences of a full moon. No matter how open and shut a case is, they always manage to make things far more complicated than needed. “Wellington Paranormal” takes great delight in showing everyone what’s happening just beyond this pair’s peripheral vision. After these two have a chance to identify (see also: worsen) the situation, Sergeant Maaka arrives like a closer from the bullpen to help bring things home.
These investigations are the perfect arena for some deadpan farce. There are foot chases without yelling, transformations playing out in the background of on-camera interviews, and vital clues mistaken for odd coincidences. Minogue’s sweet-hearted oafishness and O’Leary’s mix of good intentions and lack of perception are the perfect recipe for things taking a wrong turn in the most matter-of-fact way possible. That also goes for developments out in the field and debriefs with Maaka back at the station. (One of Pohatu’s crowning achievements is delivering “I happen to know a lot about the walking dead…from watching ‘The Walking Dead’” in a way few others can.)
The practical execution of much of “Wellington Paranormal” gives the show a good portion of its charm, too. None of these otherworldly creatures are massive CGI creations. Clement and fellow Season 1 director Jackie van Beek know exactly how to get a lot from a little. It turns out that all you need to generate a little silliness and eeriness at the same time is a few white contact lens, a little bit of wire work, and some well-executed puppetry. That goes for the non-horror stuff here, too — there’s one particular camera pan to a hole in the wall in one episode that would feel right at home in a Looney Tunes short, and an exquisitely executed clown-car gag late in the season that somehow gets better as it goes on.
“Wellington” is also a fascinating reframing of what a fictional show involving police can be. O’Leary and Minogue come across as decent people but terrible cops, an interesting counterbalance to a TV sub-genre that, whether comedy or drama, usually flips those adjectives. They carry tasers as weapons, but those prove to be wildly ineffective when deployed against spectral beings, or each other. Maaka’s morning precinct briefings play out like a newspaper’s corrections section.
“Wellington Paranormal” is plenty strong enough that it doesn’t really need any “What We Do in the Shadows” callbacks. But it works both on its own and as an entry in a slowly interwoven web. There’s some additional cross-pollination between this show and the movie that helped birth it, both in spirit and some specific characters who drop in unannounced.
Even though the show thrives on a certain level of incompetence from its main characters, the people bringing them to life are completely in control. There are some jokes, whether riffing on long-standing oddities in mythical creature lore or playfully dumb wordplay, that slowly make their way toward you like an ambling zombie. In the hands of this team, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a surprise or something you can spot them from a kilometer away — this merry band of uniformed goofs is going to make you laugh either way.
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11 July, 2021 - 10:45am
The answer, ultimately, was that FX’s What We Do in the Shadows quickly became a more polished and expansive story than Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s mockumentary, with just enough quaint charm to connect it back to the original.
Cast: Mike Minogue, Karen O'Leary, Maaka Pohatu
Creators: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement
Much more indebted and connected to the What We Do in the Shadows feature is the direct follow-up Wellington Paranormal, a TV comedy produced for TVNZ 2 and finally making its way to American TV on The CW three full years after it debuted in New Zealand.
It’s easy to see why nobody rushed to get Wellington Paranormal on the domestic airwaves. It’s built around two characters from the movie who were memorable almost entirely for not being memorable and it mostly looks cheap enough that it might have been bankrolled entirely in Marmite. In its note-perfect emulation of the feature’s dryness, however, there are a lot of very real laughs, as well as enough supernatural ridiculousness that if you have general reservations about law enforcement comedy, they won’t stick around for long. Nothing in Wellington Paranormal sticks around for long, and that’s actually an asset.
The series stars Mike Minogue and Karen O’Leary as officers Minogue and O’Leary of the Wellington police department. In the first episode, they encounter a young woman projectile vomiting and claiming to be inhabited by the demon Bazu’aal. Naturally, Minogue and O’Leary arrest her for public intoxication and they’re oddly unfazed when she starts spider-walking up walls and escapes the precinct. It’s here that Sergeant Ruawai Maaka (Maaka Pohatu) takes Minogue and O’Leary behind the comically secretive doors of the police department’s Paranormal Unit.
Over the next six episodes — a second season and a series of COVID-19 public safety messages followed — O’Leary and Minogue experience zombies, werewolves, vampires and 1970s disco ghosts, all without becoming appreciably better as cops or as investigators of the paranormal.
The series was created by Waititi and Clement, who also directed four episodes in the first season (with the other two from Jackie van Beek, part of the What We Do in the Shadows directing team), and it owes a very acknowledged debt to The X-Files, right down to the theme music, composed by Clement.
As Officer Minogue explains, “To put it in layman’s terms, we’re kinda like Mulder and Scully. She’s like Scully because she’s analytical, she’s got brains. And I’m a man with brown hair.”
The core joke of the series is that Wellington is a city with only limited crime, but nearly unlimited oddness, so much of which is human in nature that nobody exactly freaks out when blood bags go missing from the local hospital, a cow ends up in a tree or a pizza delivery man is robbed by what he identifies as a dog wearing jeans. O’Leary and Minogue simply accept everything that’s happening to them, making occasional references to The Walking Dead or Stranger Things, without ever getting disturbed that these incidents out of genre TV shows are interrupting their otherwise uneventful patrolling of Wellington’s streets.
Wellington Paranormal is shot in a flat, local news style — the New Zealand Documentary Board is a producer — and the ostensible cameraperson is every bit as unamazed by the supernatural twists as their on-camera subjects. It’s all “badly” lit and “badly” composed, which just means that most of the series’ best jokes are confined to the background of the frame, as the camera fixates on the cops and their deadpan reactions to each week’s case. The ugliness of the production is set against the amusingly proficient visual effects, in which creatures out of a ’50s sci-fi quickie or a Hammer horror film are captured with matter-of-fact realism.
The execution is limiting. Episodes don’t really build to any particular crescendos nor is there anything cumulative or escalating about the first season. Though a couple of the other cops in the precinct make multiple appearances, the first season of Wellington Paranormal doesn’t exactly expand its ensemble past its three leads and, especially when it comes to Minogue and O’Leary, you aren’t going to ever feel like these are characters you’re getting to know on a deeper level. The three-year delay getting this show on American TV means that the references and some of the sight gags are inoffensively dated as well.
When compared to FX’s What We Do in the Shadows, nothing is as metaphorically relatable as Mark Proksch’s “energy vampire,” as capable of generating empathy as Harvey Guillén’s eager-to-please Guillermo or as conceptually dazzling as the week audiences spent with a human named Jackie Dayton.
Somehow, though, the level of humor on Wellington Paranormal remains consistent and there are no real diminishing returns to Minogue and O’Leary’s obliviousness. The cases of the week have just enough variation that the two leads’ stone-faced eccentricities remain amusing with Pohatu, less clueless and more amiably accepting, getting funnier and funnier the more involved he becomes.
Episodes are only 20-minutes apiece and I’m not sure they even have enough plot to fill half of that time, but there were no duds in the six I saw, and not a single one that didn’t have me smiling for most of the running time.
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