Alan Waldman: ‘Flight of the Conchords’ is Brilliantly Original Kiwi Musical Sitcom

Waldman’s film and TV
treasures you may have missed:

Conchords‘ features inspired comedy and music parodies from gifted New Zealand folk-rock duo Jemaine Clement and Oscar winner Bret McKenzie.

By Alan Waldman | The Rag Blog | September 2, 2013

[In his weekly column, Alan Waldman reviews some of his favorite films and TV series that readers may have missed, including TV dramas, mysteries, and comedies from Canada, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Most are available on DVD and/or Netflix, and some episodes are on YouTube.]

Flight of the Conchords, available on DVD and Netflix and still airing on HBO, is one of the funniest, most original sitcoms ever. I didn’t find any complete episodes on YouTube, but here are their remarkable song spoofs from the first season.

Conchords, set in New York City, follows the comic adventures and travails of a New Zealand folk rock duo (real-life musician-singers Jemaine Clements and Bret McKenzie) who struggle to get good performing gigs, because of the incompetence of their manager, Murray (Rhys Darby). Another very funny character is their deranged only fan (and stalker), Mel, brilliantly played by The Daily Show comic Kristen Schaal.

From 2007 to 2009, 22 episodes aired on HBO. Flight of the Conchords earned 10 Emmy nominations, one win, and 10 other major noms. Emmy noms included Best Comedy Series, directing, writing (twice), best original music and lyrics (thrice) and lead actor (Clement). The pair also won a “Best Comedy Album” Grammy.

The show originated as a successful improvised 2005 BBC 2 radio series with the same name, which won them the Bronze Sony Radio Academy Award for comedy. McKenzie was music supervisor for the 2011 Muppets movie and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song “Man or Muppet.”

Kristen Schaal as Mel.

The show is totally written by Clement, McKenzie, and their director, James Bobin. Murray, their hapless manager, has a day job is as Deputy Cultural Attaché at the New Zealand Consulate in Manhattan. Jemaine and Bret unsuccessfully pursue hot women, while fending off the advances of their married goofy groupie/stalker Mel. Their antagonists are often Australians. One of Jemaine’s pickup lines is: “You’re so beautiful, like a tree or a high-class prostitute.”

In each episode, Jemaine or Bret breaks into song, which is built into the narrative structure of the show in different ways. Typically, at least once per show, a song is shot in the form of a music video. These song parodies are in many music styles, featuring animation, special effects and great comedy. Titles include Frodo (Don’t Wear the Ring), You Don’t Have to Be a Prostitute, Fashion Danger, and Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor.

The show had a positive critical reaction. The Guardian of London called it, “the best new sitcom to emerge for YEARS.” The San Francisco Chronicle reviewer raved, “It may well be the funniest thing you’ve seen in ages.” And the Detroit Free Press scribe described it as “TV’s most original and irresistible new comic concoction.”

A Flight of the Conchords movie may be in the works.

[Oregon writer and Houston native Alan Waldman holds a B.A. in theater arts from Brandeis University and has worked as an editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Honolulu magazine. Read more of Alan Waldman’s articles on The Rag Blog.]

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