Monday, September 03, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

"If it would not look too much like showing off, I would tell the reader where New Zealand is." - Mark Twain 1897

"If the people in New Zealand want to be part of our world, I believe they should hop off their islands and push 'em closer!" — Lewis Black (after a 22-hour plane trip to New Zealand)

Television Programming Rule No. 1 - Take an original idea, beat it to death, and then continue broadcasting it until the last ounce of advertising revenue has been extracted. Reality shows are the latest manifestation of this axiom. We've seen Survivor No. 1 through 750,000. The only place where they haven't positioned a show is New Zealand. And that's probably because the studio executives couldn't find it.

Now New Zealand has stepped into the limelight with the new HBO hit comedy Flight of the Conchords. The show stars Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement (playing themselves) as two innocent Kiwi musicians who move to The Big Apple, seeking fame and fortune for their novelty band. This is the freshest TV that I've seen in years. The comedy is original and intelligent. "Conchords" is for people who don't mind having to think before they laugh - a rare phenomenon in a medium where viewers are usually offered boobtube baby food.

Combined with a strong cast of characters, edgy plots, and campy music videos, this half hour program packs more entertainment than many of its one-hour contemporaries.

Supporting roles are:

Murray Hewitt (played by Rhys Darby) is the band's manager. He also works as a cultural attache' for the New Zealand Consulate. The band's meetings are held in his Consulate office. Murray's role calls during these gatherings are classic. See Murray's Band Meetings. He is optimistic and enthusiastic, but doesn't have any idea how the music industry works. Brett and Jemaine are equally clueless, so their joint efforts to achieve stardom are filled with hilarious misadventures.

Mel (Kristen Schaal) is the band's only fan. She is also a stalker, with Brett being the object of her lustful obsession. With her big eyes and cartoon voice, she is perfectly cast for this role. In one episode she pops up in front of the boys from a basement stairway. When Jemaine asked her what she was doing down there, she says "jogging". Kristen's scenes are comic genius. See Bret and Mel in Bathroom.

Dave (Arj Barker) runs a local store that sells just about everything. Dave presents himself as a babe magnet, but his real life is far less glamorous. He still lives with his parents, but denies it by claiming that they are "just a crazy old couple that he sublets his apartment to". Dave counsels the boys about American culture and women, often with disastrous results. See He May Be Did!

The Conchords' music videos are seamlessly woven into the story plots, and provide a melodic counterpoint. You can see some of them on YouTube:

* Ladies of the World

* Foux De Fa Fa

* Albi the Racist Dragon

There are a number of people behind the scenes who significantly contributed to Season One's success:

Stu Smiley developed the series and is Executive Producer. He also developed and executive produced Everybody Loves Raymond, which was nominated for 6 Emmys (and won twice) for Outstanding Comedy. That always looks good on the resume!

James Bobin is Executive Producer, Co-Creator, and and Director. "He won a British Academy of Film and Television Award for 'Best Comedy Series' in 2000, and has also been nominated for other awards by the Royal Television Society and the Monteux Television Festival. In the US he directed and co-wrote all 12 episodes of the critically acclaimed 2 seasons of 'Da Ali G Show' for HBO in 2003 and 2004. He was nominated for 'Best Director' Emmys for both seasons, as well as sharing writing nominations twice."

Troy Miller has been nominated for nine Best Director Emmy awards, and has won twice. "Miller has produced and directed all of the infamous short films that open the Oscar® telecast that featured Billy Crystal embedded within the footage of other films. Jon Stewart also used Miller to craft the opening for his most recent Oscar® opening that featured Actors George Clooney, Chris Rock, Halle Berry, Steve Martin and David Letterman."

FOC's first season ended on Sept. 2. For the next month, HBO On Demand featured all of the first season episodes, but then inexplicably removed them - while retaining programs of lesser quality. I am checking with The Hague to see if this action qualifies as a Crime Against Humanity. Most FOCers would say "Yes"!

There are very few TV programs that I would watch more than once, but "Flight of the Conchords" is on my short list. Trudi and I have seen many episodes 10 times or more, and still enjoy them. With each viewing, we pick up more nuanced nuggets of humor. I am convinced that this series will become a TV classic.