'Conchord' Great

NUVO | May 20, 2007
By Marc D. Allan

Mid-May wouldn't typically be the time to review a show that premieres June 17, but there's no reason to wait. The program is HBO's Flight of the Conchords, and you can see the entire first episode now at hbo.com/conchords.

Take advantage. It's hilarious.

The series revolves around the deadpan antics of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, the New Zealand folk-pop duo known as The Conchords. The hapless pair has moved to New York, where they're sharing a tiny apartment while trying to expand their fan base beyond Mel, a stalker-ish woman who seems to watch their every move.

Along for the ride are their semi-competent manager Murray, irritable friend Dave and, at least for the first episode, a love interest called Sally who used to go out with Bret and now has caught Jemaine's fancy.

We don't meet any of these people in the usual way. Dave holds a party, where he pretends to be lonely in hopes of attracting women. Our first glimpse of Sally is across the room at the party, where Jemaine suddenly breaks into song (think America's "Ventura Highway" as filtered through Outkast) to declare that she's so beautiful, she "could be a part-time model." Murray invites Jemaine and Bret to a band meeting where he takes attendance.

Even Jemaine and Bret introduce themselves to us by holding a conversation in an almost emotionless monotone -- which turns out to be the way they talk to everyone. Happily, their music has a pleasing acoustic soul sound and lyrics worthy of Spinal Tap.

Flight of the Conchords is so low-key that it comes across as surreal. In one scene, Murray wants the group to make a video, which he records on a cell phone. (The boys dress in cheesy robot costumes and sing about the humans being dead.)

This isn't typical American television, and its success is probably going to depend on word of mouth, which is why the debut episode is being distributed early on MySpace, iTunes, Yahoo TV, MeeVee, iFilm, Superdeluxe, Blip TV, Movielink, Comcast.net and Time Warner Cable/Roadrunner.com before the series begins its run at 10:30 p.m. Sundays on HBO.

See it now.


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