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 V.16 No.24 | June 14 - 20, 2007 

Idiot Box

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“Flight of the Conchords” on HBO

Let us not lament the loss of what has been and gone (“The Sopranos,” “Rome,” “Deadwood,” “Carnivale”). Let us, instead, look with hopeful eyes toward the future of HBO’s Sunday night lineup. I’m excited for a new season of “Entourage” (beginning this very Sunday). I can’t say I completely get David Milch’s apocalyptic “surf noir” series “John from Cincinnati”—but I’m intrigued enough to keep watching. And now I’m happy to welcome one of my favorite new shows to the schedule, the oddly endearing comedy “Flight of the Conchords.”

“Flight of the Conchords” is basically “Tenacious D” without that faux folk/death metal band’s over-the-top self-delusions of grandeur—and with the addition of funny foreign accents. The electro-acoustic emo-folk parody band The Conchords is made up of Bret McKenzie (played by Bret McKenzie) and Jermaine Clement (played by Jermaine Clement). Born in New Zealand, the dorky duo moves to New York City in hopes of finding fame and fortune—or at least a paying gig. The Big Apple isn’t proving so sweet, however. The boys have landed a crummy studio apartment, a manager who works in the clearly impoverished New Zealand Consulate and a fanbase consisting of exactly one freakishly obsessive (and already married) gal.

The semi-improvised sitcom plots are broken up by assorted musical numbers, which have our dorky duo bursting into hilariously underfunded music video segments. Clement and McKenzie have a slacker-perfect sense of timing and a smartly self-depricating sense of humor. The entire show breezes by on the same sort of indie “loser” charm that fueled Napoleon Dynamite and Garden State. In addition to the witty lyrics (I’m not crying/My eyes are just sweaty today) and comic interaction (almost every member of the cast has won some sort of “alternative” comedy award), there are plenty of “blink and you’ll miss them” background jokes. A series of travel posters in the New Zealand Consulate, for example, tout the island nation with such underwhelming slogans as, “Don’t Expect Too Much—You’ll Love It.”

HBO has always gotten more attention for its hour-long dramas than for its half-hour sitcoms. With the recent loss of “The Sopranos,” that tide may be changing. It’s hard not to brand “Flight of the Conchords” the best Comedy Central show not on Comedy Central. It does what so many alterna-comedy shows (CC’s “Stella,” for example) have tried to do, but have not quite succeeded in—namely, be different and funny at the same time. Here’s to a very long Sunday night layover for “Flight of the Conchords.”

“Flight of the Conchords” debuts Sunday, June 17, at 11:30 p.m. on HBO.

 
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