Dominion Post 25.09.06
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Comic duo put Kiwi accent on US TV
25 September 2006
By Tom Cardy
Americans will have to get used to a rarely heard sound when they watch a forthcoming sitcom – Kiwi accents.
Wellington comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, hired this month by American cable channel HBO to make a 12-part series, have revealed they will keep their accents for the show, which is to be set in Los Angeles or New York.
Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie will star, and fellow London-based Kiwi comedian Rhys Darby will have a regular part. But the support cast will be American.
Clement, speaking from Los Angeles, said the Conchords were delighted they could keep their accents. "That's one thing that we thought would count against it because it is unusual, but people don't seem to mind that. Me and Bret play characters called Jemaine and Bret from New Zealand. It's going to be the best Kiwi sitcom to come out of America."
The duo's signing with HBO, which is best known for Sex and the City and The Sopranos, has been likened to a Kiwi director landing a Hollywood movie. Flight of the Conchords' live shows centre on musical parodies. Clement said they would still sing songs in the show and likened the style to 60s comedy The Monkees meets HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Clement said the duo had several meetings with HBO last week. The show would be filmed without a studio audience and on location.
"We are still talking about whether we will film in New York or Los Angeles, but we'll probably have to come (back) to LA to write and we are thinking of hiring a couple of writers to help us out because there's quite a lot of extra things to do."
American network NBC had earlier shown interest in a Flight of the Conchords sitcom, but changed its mind. The duo then played their songs on HBO show One Night Stand. But Clement said they were stunned when HBO agreed to a sitcom.
"I couldn't really take it in. I couldn't believe it. We thought it was unlikely we'd get anything. We'd already been through it once with NBC and I'd been through a lot of proposals (for shows) in New Zealand and none of them ever happened . . . They were asking how many episodes we'd like to do and we thought `Six – like a British series', so 12 was a real surprise. That's a big commitment. But it's very real now."
Clement and McKenzie will co-write and co-produce the series, which is likely to be called Flight of the Conchords. Ali G director James Bobin, who shot and co-wrote the series pilot, will direct.
Though already a hit in New Zealand and at the Edinburgh Fringe, Clement said the duo were still surprised by their American following. They performed three shows in New York last weekend and got standing ovations when they stepped on stage.
"It was mental, it was really crazy. We used to do just little gigs, but because of (One Night Stand) we've got quite a cult following. We went to Austin, Texas, where people had made T-shirts with us on them and characters from our songs and they were getting photos of us."
The Conchords visited Austin for the South by Southwest music festival. A documentary, Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey, is likely to screen on New Zealand television this year.
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