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Flight of the Conchords -- an early look

by Julia Ward, posted May 17th 2007 9:08AM
Flight of the Conchords PILOTHad I known that television shows were just going to premiere all their pilots online well before their air dates, I wouldn't have had to move all the way to Los Angeles for the insider privilege. But, we, the internet savvy, are being rewarded for our pop culture geekitude with such treats as HBO's online premiere of Flight of the Conchords over a month before its broadcast on June 17th at 10:30PM. You can watch New Zealand's "fourth most popular folk parody duo" in their stateside series debut on the show's MySpace site or, starting Monday, at HBO.com.

The only advantages to attending the swanky premiere screening and party in LA on Tuesday night – free samosas, the styling sounds of DJ Pube$ (...not making this up...) and the collective laughter of a room full of people who look exactly like Jermanie Clement and Brett McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords – affable downtown-types minus the pretension. (How pretentious can you be when you're giggling at New Zealand tourism jokes and sipping box wine?)

Since you can watch the pilot online yourself, I won't go into too much depth about the show in this "early look" except to say that folk parody actually makes excellent television, but I guess the Smothers Brothers already taught us that. After seeing Clement and McKenzie's One Night Stand on HBO over a year ago, I wondered whether or not it would translate to a series format. Their act is essentially two guys sitting on stools, strumming guitars and singing remarkably goofy songs about everything from David Bowie, the inevitable robot take-over of the planet and getting it on with the ladies.

They've chosen to translate their act to the screen via two separate conventions. The most obvious – the Flight of the Conchords play themselves – struggling musicians in New York City named Jermanie and Brett who play gigs, shoot music videos, etc. The second means of bringing song to the screen is my personal favorite. In classic musical fashion, they just burst into song. I know this drives people who hate musicals crazy, but I love it. And, it works largely because the conceit is played for laughs. The songs function as the characters' internal monologues. (Technically, this is how operas and musicals have always worked, but I won't bore you with the recitative/aria lesson. I'll save that for the opera bloggers of the world. The short of it - emotional time versus real time.)

The show is very clever - making ample use of humorous juxtapositions in the editing, guest spots with NYC downtown comedy faves like Eugene Mirman and smart satirical jabs at music videos and the music industry. The reason the show works, however, is because of its modesty and the chemistry between Jermaine and Brett. Whether they've known each other forever or not, it seems like these two could finish each other's sentences, predict each other's moods and love/hate each other's foilables.

The modesty is a bit more complicated to explain. While Flight of the Conchords have some gimmicky songs about robot take-overs and racist dragons, their best songs are the ones about the completely ordinary fabric of our lives - the mundanities, the things we're actually thinking when we see a hot boy or girl, what we wish we could say if we were cool but we don't because we're not, the great melodrama of our emotional lives as it exists in our heads, etc. Not that robot take-over and Hip-Hopopotamus songs aren't awesome. Oh, there's awesomeness all around, and it cannot be stopped.

So, slip on a pair of headphones when no one's looking at the office, and enjoy the pilot episode of Flight of the Conchords.

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I love this show. I saw the pilot of Flight of the Conchords on Yahoo TV http://tv.yahoo.com/flight-of-the-conchords/show/38719 where they were showing it for free. i was all set to cancel my hbo sub but i've kept it up just for this show. Fun!

July 25 2007 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

FOTC is one of the lamest, most pretentious shows to come out in years. Wake up people, they are not funny. unless you consider a vintage couch funny. they're boring as a comedy duo, trying to out cool each other or something. what's 'flight of the conchords' mean? nothing. it's a stupid comedy that tries to ride on aesthetics alone.

How can anyone not honestly find jemaine clement irritating? he's obnoxious.

FOTC is trying to combine what tenacious D have done (who do it funnier), and the whole napoleon dynamite sense of goofiness, and kiwi humor (which I have no problem saying, America is just not "ready") and it's just a sloppy un-funny show.

July 15 2007 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm pleased to see FotC making some noise in the states again.

May 17 2007 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I saw these guys preform at a Fringe Festival in Calgary, Canada a few years ago and I have been raving about them ever since. i am thrilled to see some genuine talent getting mainstream attention. Make sure that if you get the chance, check it out!

May 17 2007 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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