Flight of the Conchords -- an early look
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.