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Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie â" a.k.a. Flight of the Conchords â" may be âNew Zealandâs 4th Most Popular Folk Parody Duo,â but in the USA, finding someone who knows their act is about as easy as finding a kiwi nest in Central Park. To rectify this oversight, Jemaine and Bret have moved to New Yorkâs East Village to conquer America, one fan literally at a time.
Unlike most HBO series, Flight of the Conchords does not want to set the world on fire. It is droll and deadpan to beat the band. If you like Tenacious D, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Richman, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, and silly Pythonian wordplay, then its off-center charms will definitely strike a resonant chord. The Conchords are comprised of funky, funny folk duo Bret McKenzie and mutton-chopped Jemaine Clement, transplanted New Zealanders trying to make it in New York. Bret, their incompetent manager, Murray Rhys Darby notes, has "the right attitude," while Jemaine has "what I like to call, 'the wrong attitude.'" Murray, who works out of the New Zealand consulate, makes the clueless agent in Extras look like Ari Gold. Stardom eludes the band. They have one fan, Mel Kristin Schaal, whose seething husband chaperones her while she stalks them by season's end, even she will desert them. Financially strapped, they live in squalor and are forced to film a music video with a cell-phone camera. The dense Jemaine is a damper on Bret's love life he derisively calls Coco, Bret's new girlfriend, "Yoko". But from their mundane lives springs their inspired music, and it is during each episode's musical numbers that Conchords really takes flight. Sample lyrics: "You're so beautiful / You could be a hostess in the '60s"; and "I'm not crying / It's just been raining / On my face." Another mad highlight is "Bowie to Bowie" in the episode in which Bret is visited by visions of Bowie in his various career incarnations portrayed by a dead-on Jemaine. But the dialogue, too, sings with an inspired, surreal lunacy. One exchange between Bret and Murray degenerates into a chicken-egg discussion over a job vs. a gig. HBO has renewed Flight of the Conchords for a second season. Bravo! As a greeting-card executive The Daily Show's John Hodgman, who wants to license one of their tracks, tells the duo, "I believe in potential. I can see it in you guys." --Donald Liebenson