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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Flight of the Conchords

So have any Wavers watched HBO's FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS? What a strange, delightful, weird show. When I watched the very first episode of the very first season, after having heard friends rave about the show, I must admit I was flummoxed. It was funny - I guess. In a very awkward way. I mean, New Zealand accents are actually a little hard to understand and I didn't quite get the tone of the show. By the second episode, I was hooked. And the more I watched, the more I got hooked. Those Kiwis are addictive.

For those of you who know nothing about the F of the Cs, it's an HBO series that airs Sunday evenings at 10pm and is about to wrap up its second season. It's about a New Zealand folk music duo - Brett and Jemaine - who have moved to New York and are trying to book gigs through their dedicated but totally inept manager, Murray. They have one fan - stalker Mel - a hilarious, hilarious actor, and live in a crappy apartment. They are an odd brand of man/boy - they are quite naive and trusting but also clearly dim. It's the details of the show that crack me up. The posters touting New Zealand in the background at the consulate: New Zealand - Don't expect much. You'll love it! And of course, the music - the show is interspersed with songs by Brett and Jemaine and the lyrics are ridiculous. Not to mention the music. But Brett and Jemaine take themselves and their music quite seriously. Rhys Darby, who plays Murray, is for me the best part. He insists upon band meetings in which roll call is necessary. Brett: yes. Jemaine: yes. Murray: present. His devotion to the band is nothing short of delusional - and yet it is heartwarming.

Like SEINFELD, it's a show about not much. Brett and Jemaine face difficulties like getting mugged, needing new fans, going on a warm-up tour. Most of their gigs take place at libraries, aquariums and empty bars. They are unaware of the absolute lack of actual progress as a band. The episode in which a fruit vendor is racist because he thinks they're Aussies is my favorite. The constant poking fun at New Zealand is priceless. New Zealand! Rocks!

The attention to detail and backstory is great. Their one fan Mel is married to a man who plays solitaire in the basement and drives her to Conchords gigs. When Brett is in the bathroom at Mel's house, she pokes her head in the door to "check" on him and to her right, there is a picture on the wall - such a small detail - of a sketched nude male with both Brett's and Jemaine's heads cut from a picture and glued onto its head. Mel, by the way, is a junior professor of psychology. And, yes, a stalker. The New Zealand Consulate, where Murray works as an attache, is housed in the same building as businesses like All Asian Massage and a meat distributor.

If you haven't seen the show, rent or buy the first season. It's a cult favorite and it's highly entertaining once you become accustomed to the particularity of the world. The artful construct of that world, from a writing standpoint, is the strength of the show. Totally character driven, it highlights the ridiculous music and the naivete of the band. It's a fish out of water construct - but what fish.

World. Particularity. Irony. Details. FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS is a show that aspiring writers should watch at least once. Because this, Wavers, is how it's done.

To learn more about Brett, Jemaine and their journey as comedians and performers, click HERE.

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Tavis Sarmento said...

Gotta love the intro to the first season.

Sarah said...

I'm a New Zealander in LA and here's a fun fact. Our major broadcaster rejected the Conchords' TV show pitch for being "too Wellington". Wellington is our capital city but it is comparatively small and artsy. The network is still embarrassed about that one. I just hope enough showrunners have watched it to appreciate my spec!

Carson Reeves said...

Eagle Vs. Shark - single greatest movie in the universe. I can't say I always laugh at Flight Of The Conchords because occasionally those guys will go to the oddest of places, but when it hits, it's the funniest show on television.

Christina said...

As a musician, I absolutely love the show. But I have trouble watching it because my last ex looks just like Jemaine (maybe a little smarter), and I'm not over him. Boo-hoo!