I recently received an email to attend a private screening of a new HBO comedy series called FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS. Over the years I have worked my way onto various press and email lists, so I will occasionally get emails like this one for invite only events. There were two things in the email that really piqued my interest about this show. Those things were where it said “Open Bar” and “Free Food”. My broke ass decided to take my lady out for a night on the town. The premiere was held at Seattle’s bar/concert venue known as the Rendevous/Jewel Box theatre on June 5th.
After arriving and checking in, we were sent downstairs through a door to a separate bar with a DJ. On every table there were 6” high foam rubber robots. These were promotional items with Flight of the Conchords” printed across the chests.
Once everybody was good and soused, the crowd headed up to the theatre where the screening took place. It was small and quaint. There was a waitress to keep the drinks flowing. This was, obviously, a calculated method of selling the idea of the fledgling sit-com. It was a great idea though; tanked reviewers are happy reviewers. The only issue with this approach is that they are also obnoxiously loud reviewers who talk and laugh over the entire fucking viewing. As a hustler by nature, I become somewhat resentful when I know I’m in the middle of being “worked over” by marketing tactics, even if they are, in all reality, mutually beneficial. I wanted to remain objective and this urge increased more and more as I would witness the blank, drunken, grins spring up like waves across the faces of the so called “professional” reporters in the room. They would have split their goddamn sides over something as simple as a chicken on a bicycle. It really didn’t matter, because everyone was lit up like a Christmas tree by the time that the screening began.
To the credit of the Rendezvous, HBO and the promoters, a major scene from the first episode did take place at a drunken party. In addition to that, the free food offered to us mirrored the type of food that the characters were eating at the party. The catered buffet, which was listed as “NYC-Style Finger Food” on the invite, consisted of samosas and other delicious Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. It helped to put the guests in the mindset to feel like they were mingling with the program itself. It was a large spread and HBO spared no expense with the advertising. They even distributed custom printed Flight of the Conchords American Apparel T-Shirts.
The show itself was alright. It didn’t blow my mind but I can see the potential for it in the future, which is essential for an introductory episode. The concept for the show is based around two young men living in New York who deal with the trials and tribulations of the music business. They are trying to get famous off of their guitar duo but, thus far, have only been able to attract one die-hard fan. They express scenes and feelings, often through comical narative musical interludes. Sound familiar? Alright….take a minute… That’s right, HBO already aired this show and it was called Tenacious D. All of the free booze and satays wasn’t going to hide that. The odd thing is that nobody else seemed to notice this. One woman asked me what I thought about the show and I told her that I thought that it was completely derivative of Tenacious D. Then she pulled out her notepad and, while writing, said “Wow, good point!” I was pissed off at myself for, in a sense, giving her my article. When she walked of I stole her promotional T-Shirt, which she carelessly left at the bar and I gave it away.
I have two fears about the program. One is that the fact that theirs is a totally re-worked concept will be totally over-looked and will be viewed as a revolutionary formula for a television show. The other is that it won’t be overlooked and that many will find it impossible to look beyond this and give the program, or at least the Conchords, their due. I feel that the program really has the possibility of standing on its own,.
Bret Mckenzie and Jemaine Clement (FOTC) may not be as well known in the states as they are the UK, where they released a six-part BBC Radio 2 series, or their native New Zealand, however, the two up-and-coming stars have been working successfully towards this career for quite sometime now. The two university pals, who originally teamed up in 1998 and were previously known collectively as both Moustache and Vested Interest, claim to have done so in an attempt to work on building their guitar playing ability. On their official myspace page claims it states, “Our musical sphere expanded when we accidentally invented rap in 1998 while at a friend’s barbecue”. They have since been recognized internationally for their work as comedy team. They received the award for “Best Alternative Comedy Act” at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and received a nomination for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, which is, incidentally, where Jack Black and Kyle Gass from Tenacious D first got together. They are both very accomplished in their own right as individuals. McKenzie even has 3 Gold Records under his belt as a member of the number one-selling New Zealand band The Black Seeds. Clement is starring in the film Eagle VS Shark which is currently running a design contest with the website Threadless.com, won the best screenplay in the US Comedy Arts Festival, and is an official selection of both SXSW and the Sundance Film Festival. In addition, I also have to give the duo crazy props due to Mckenzie often playing a Casio DG-20 midi-guitar and to the fact that Clement is wearing the Barry White shirt put out by, one of my favorite labels, Philadelphia’s Rope-A-Dope Records, on the cover of their BBC compact disc release.
The group, much like Tenacious D’s “Lee”, have “Mel” who is played by Kristen Schaal. She is their one and only die-hard fan. Unlike Lee, FOTC’s fan is clearly more obsessed with them than they are with her. Not only does she reach stalker levels of obsession, but she is also married. It feels a bit formulaic having this character on the show, but reading up on Schaal’s bio, her background is fairly impressive. She is the winner of such awards as Best Alternative Comic at HBO’s 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival as well as the 2nd annual Andy Kaufman award, among others.
The major plus for me about the program lies in one of the minor, borderline background, characters in the first episode, because it is played by comedian/writer/film maker Eugene Mirman. Hopefully, as the storylines expand, so will his character.
The question here is, “Will this show take off? Of course it will. HBO has a lot of money backing it, regardless of the played out low-fi filming that is used, and people in this day and age have the memory of fish. HBO knows that they are re-using a formula that they’ve already used. “Fuck it, it worked last time”. This formula is one of the only effective ways to translate FOTC’s act into a program. I even noticed that there’s some bullshit TV show about a tanning salon on cable now and people are actually watching it. At least FOTC has a supporting cast of talented artists who can hopefully help this program grow into something that’s worth watching on a regular basis.
– Dead C
HERE’S A CLIP OF THE SHOW:
(TO VIEW THE ENTIRE FIRST EPISODE CLICK HERE)
Mckenzie and Clement have numerous projects in the works.
Things to Look For
-They have have been signed to the label SUB POP, best known for putting out
Nirvana’s debut album, and will be putting out a comedy album.
– David Letterman appearance on June 11th
– They will be performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival on
June 16th and 17th
(Enjoy that one. I was thrown out of that festival by the police)
– Appearing on Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien on June 19th