How A Raunchy Horror Sitcom Turned Into The Best TV Show About Parenting
What's another word for "energy vampire?" Yep, it's a child.
What We Do in the Shadows is an outrageous phantasmagorical dark comedy about polysexual bloodsuckers who live to suck and f*ck. Yet its depiction of the mind and personality of a hyperactive little boy is shockingly nuanced and realistic. Somehow, one of the funniest and subversive shows on TV is suddenly the best and smartest show about parenting.
If you’re not caught up on the first three seasons of What We Do in the Shadows, a major spoiler is incoming! At the end of its third season, the show audaciously killed off breakout character Colin Robinson, an “Energy Vampire” played by Mark Proksch. Turns out, in the world of vampires, however, death is less a definitive end than a road bump so it was not altogether surprising when a child version of the iconic energy vampire burst out of Colin Robinson’s corpse in the third season’s final episode.
What is surprising is the ingenious and surprisingly emotional way in which What We Do in the Shadows resurrected one of its most beloved characters. Where Colin Robinson was an Energy Vampire whose hypnotically tedious personality and mindless banter sucked the life force out of people unfortunate enough to be his victims, his young, child doppelgänger is a combustible ball of energy spilling out in every direction. The show does not have to exaggerate the personality and predilections of an energetic small boy much in order to make him a menace to a household full of vampires rather than the other way around. Basically, young Colin is every child, and the resident vampires on the show, are suddenly every parent.
The show absolutely nails the details of childhood and parenting, beginning with how Baby Colin or “The Boy” is at once charming and likable with his irrepressible enthusiasm for life and any number of weird, intense, and fleeting passions and utterly exhausting because, like many children, supernatural or otherwise, he has no off switch, so he just keeps on going and going and going like an undead version of the Energizer Bunny. Parents recognize his relentless and sweet energy every time he begins a sentence with the phrase “guess what?”
Throughout the season, the adult vampires tasked with looking after The Boy sport an expression that combines bone-deep exhaustion and defeats with unmistakable affection that will be familiar to any parent who has ever known the joy and frustration of dealing with an extremely, even excessively energetic child.
The shockingly relatable thing that emerged from Colin Robinson’s corpse has whole universes of pent-up energy vibrating inside of his little body and no good outlet for his relentless drive so, like so many children, he dedicates himself to mindless destruction he does not begin to understand.
As the father of a neuro-divergent seven-year-old and a four-year-old, I see so much of my own children in the ghoul that emerged from the chest cavity of Colin Robinson’s dead body. That’s the genius of the character: seemingly all parents can see at least some of their children in this new manifestation of Colin Robinson and some of themselves as well. Like children who did not emerge from a festering corpse, Colin is a creature of obsessions who cycles through interests at a machine gun clip. Just because his world revolves around Roblox and his iPad in the morning doesn’t mean that he’ll care about them in the afternoon.
Kids are obsessive by nature. They’re also just plain weird even when their origins are less spooky than Colin’s odd offspring. So, it feels very true to life for this misbegotten creature to develop an interest not just in cloying, precious old-time music, but an interest in performing cloying, precious, old-time music.
The only thing weirder and creepier than a child who emerged from the corpse of an energy vampire is a child who emerged from the corpse of an energy vampire and desperately wants to entertain humans and vampires alike.
The ghouls of What We Do in the Shadows did not ask to become caretakers of the curious offspring of their late friend and nothing about their lifestyle suggests they’d be fit parents yet they take to parenthood. All the same, the same way that people who accidentally find themselves caring for a child that is not their own in real life sometimes take to parenthood.
There is a genuine sweetness to the relationship between The Boy and parental vampire Leslie "Laszlo" Cravensworth (Matt Berry.) Laszlo takes a clear liking to the eccentric lad and acts as a doting father figure and stage parent for his show-business aspirations. In short, Laszlo might be a vampire, and thus, has different safety standards than us mere mortals, but, he’s a legitimately great dad.
Toward the end of Season 4, Laszlo looks on with mortification when he sees that, seemingly overnight, the Creature From the Corpse of Colin Robinson has undergone puberty, shot up like a sprout, and is experiencing the horrors of adolescence. This is obviously not something any human parent would ever experience, yet it rings true all the same. Laszlo is experiencing the sadness, confusion, and horror we feel at the prospect of our children leaving behind the innocence of childhood for the waking nightmare that is puberty and the tween and teen years.
I’m similarly bummed to see the thing from Colin Robinson’s dead body grow up so elliptically and hit the teen years with a loud thud because, like Laszlo, I am not yet ready to let go of the weird little dude and all of his annoying, endearing eccentricities. Lazslo isn’t ready for young Colin to grow up, to stop beginning every sentence with “guess what.” He’s not ready because I’m not ready, and because none of us are.
What We Do In the Shadows streams on Hulu.