New Zealand Herald

US media mixed on Kiwi comedy duo's maiden 'Flight' in the US

By Joanne Hunkin - June 18, 2007

Read NZ Herald entertainment reporter Joanna Hunkin's review of the show here

Kiwi comedy duo Flight of the Conchords has aired their highly anticipated TV show to mixed reviews in the US.

The 12-part series, starring Wellington comedians Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, aired on HBO, creator of The Sopranos and Sex and the City, yesterday.

The New York Times hailed the show as a triumph, describing it as "funny in an understated and clever way". The New York Post was equally as complimentary, "Something new and hilarious, and completely different". But it seems that the Kiwi humour has gone way over the heads of some of the other TV critics.

Website failed to appreciate the Kiwi duo's blend of eccentric, quirky humour, citing the show as "Hardly great...pretty standard stuff".

Flight of the Conchords follows the trials and tribulations of a two-man, New Zealand digi-folk band as they make their way in New York City. The band is made up of Bret McKenzie, 30, and Jemaine Clement, 33.

The series centres on their adventures in being transplanted from New Zealand to New York's Lower East Side, where they struggle to find venues for their act.

Despite the mixed reviews, HBO, which has 30 million subscribers, is touting Flight of the Conchords as a gem amongst its line-up of innovative new shows.

New Zealanders will be able to sample Flight of the Conchords for themselves when it airs on Prime here later this year.

This is what the US media had to say about the Flight of the Conchords:

The New York Times:
"Flight of the Conchords is funny in such an understated way that it is almost dangerous to make too much of it. It's much slighter than HBO's big production comedies like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. It's also a little sweeter, less a satire of show business than wry self-parody."

New York Post:
"A fantastic flight. Something new and hilarious, and completely different. Unlike anything else I have ever seen before."
"Hardly a great show...It's all pretty standard stuff, shot on a dime against grungy New York backdrops...the show isn't much to look at, but thanks to those music videos, there are moments when it sounds like a gem."

Chicago Tribune:
"The charms of this series are subtle, but only grow over the course of the first few episodes. Clement and McKenzie, perhaps because of their upbringing in the most polite nation on Earth, are well suited to understated, self-deprecating comedy, and their fertile imaginations are usually up to the task entertaining the short attention span of the YouTube generation."

Los Angeles Times:
"The art of the deadpan has been tuned to an exquisitely fine degree in HBO's new and consistently funny Flight of the Conchords."

USA Today:
"Bizarre and a cinema-verité comedy. Some of it is mildly amusing, but there are few performers who can make this kind of slice-of-life comedy play (think Ricky Gervais), and none seem to be working on Conchords."
"Conchords has its moments of wiggy charm but lacks an essential ingredient: star charisma. Its two leads, the New Zealand music-comedy duo of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, are deadpan and clever but so cloyingly doofy that they're not only tough to root for but difficult to watch for extended periods as well."

NY Daily
"It may not be to everyone's liking - but the duo itself should be. Flight of the Conchords is a fish-out-of-water, musicians-out-of-money comedy featuring some funny, dry lines of dialogue and even funnier, drier songs. As a series, it could be a lot better, but there's no denying the appeal of the two musicians."

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Joanna Hunkin's review of Flight of The Conchords

Like a trainwreck you can't look away from, Flight of the Conchords serves up the same painfully awkward comedy as The Office or Napoleon Dynamite.

The premise is simple: Two Kiwi boys - Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie - are transplanted to New York City in a futile quest to crack the American music scene.

The point of difference is the duo's unique "folk parody" musical interludes, which are interspersed throughout the half-hour show.

While this cringe-inducing brand of comedy is not for everyone, there is no denying the boys have got the genre down pat.

The series also offers an extra giggle for Kiwis, as it is littered with subtle references to New Zealand.

The New Zealand consulate office, where the band's manager Murray happens to work, is fitted out with cheap 80s wood veneer and tourism posters, which read "New Zealand: Don't expect too much. You'll love it."

In one scene, Clement is seen sporting a uniquely New Zealand Little Brother t-shirt.

Fellow countryman Rhys Darby brings his own quirky comedy to the show in the role of Murray, becoming New Zealand's own David Brent.

But the star of the show, garnering the most laughs from this reviewer, was not any of the Kiwi contingent, but American actress Kristen Schaal, who plays the band's sole fan, Mel.

The obsessive stalker character is one which could easily have been overplayed and cliche, but Schaal manages to balance the character's eccentricities with a likeability that makes Mel not only bearable, but actually endearing.

Quirky, amusing and slightly obscure, it is hard to imagine this series will survive in the cut-throat world that is the American television market.

In the New Zealand market, however, it's safe to say the show will succeed on novelty factor alone. It's not every day two Kiwi boys make it big in New York City.

Taken from NZ Herald

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