HBO Flight of The Conchords reviews

A few Flight of The Conchords reviews from various online news sites.

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Musical misfits hoping for their big break by Tim Goodman, Chronicle TV Critic

There's really no better way to put this: Whatever you do, make sure you carve out some time to watch "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO Sunday night.

Sure, that's not the sexiest start to a story you've ever read, but it's the essential element. "Flight of the Conchords" may well be the funniest thing you've seen in ages and -- at least for a half hour -- answers the question of whether HBO has any good shows left.

"Flight of the Conchords" stars Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as the "digi-folk" band of the same name. They're from New Zealand -- you know, not Australia -- and they have come to New York to make it big.

Of course, nobody knows them and they're broke. Wait, that's not exactly true. Mel (comedian Kristen Schaal) knows them. She's their No. 1 fan. And, as the band knows only too well, their only fan. Mel is completely obsessed with the duo. Her husband, however, is not so keen on her fixation. But she browbeats him into driving her around New York in search of her heroes.

The broke part -- that's all true. Bret and Jemaine are living in a dumpy New York apartment, scrounging for jobs, scrounging for food, trying to meet girls and get gigs.

They are not very successful at it.

Part of the problem can be traced back to their manager, Murray (Rhys Darby), who -- not unlike Darren (Stephen Merchant) in "Extras" -- is quite possibly the worst manager ever. At least Murray is a stickler for band meetings (he takes roll call) and keeps a positive attitude even though the band has almost no chance of getting a respectable gig.

"Flight of the Conchords" comes from the same lineage as Tenacious D -- two mostly loserish musicians trying to make a living. But while Tenacious D was all testosterone and drive, Flight of the Conchords is a band that plays more laid-back (but no less hilarious) numbers. They have ambition to practice and be successful, but mostly they sleep or sit around or hang out. They are very Zen in their poverty and failure.

It's a great conceit for a series because both McKenzie, with his slacker mentality, and Clement, with his nerdier cluelessness, are instantly likable. You root for them in everything, even if it's something as mundane as having enough money to get food. You want them, via Murray, to get the gig of their lives. You just know it's not going to happen. They shot a video once but had to use a cell phone because they couldn't afford to rent a real camera.

It's that kind of life.

Both McKenzie and Clement have superb timing and an effortless way with brilliant, subtle jokes (they're also the writers). The series floats by like some lo-fi laugh fest captured by a documentary camera, but no doubt tons of work has gone into getting the tone exactly right.

And the skimpy premise works beautifully. Murray has a day job at the New Zealand Consulate, which gives him all the time in the world to manage the band from his desk (New Zealand is the recurring punch line and it never fails). Mel's obsessive creepiness and meritless optimism about the duo's chances of success comes in small bunches when needed. And the band's other (only?) friend in New York, Dave (comedian Arj Barker), gives them advice about America and girls and such as needed. That's it. That's the show. Nothing is forced. Simplicity is its master. Everyone involved is understated and hilarious, letting McKenzie and Clement's writing shine through.

Of course, you can't discount the music. The duo break into song (little videos, essentially, that fit the plot) a couple of times an episode, and each is a slice of ridiculous genius that will leave you gutted with laughter. McKenzie and Clement can sing (Clement has the added benefit of his character thinking he's sexy but coming off, as the show's description says of his geeky glasses and mutton-chops, like "an ogre who works in a library"). Never have absurdity and self-deprecation worked better.

(It's best not to oversell the songs -- or the series, for that matter -- because both are exceedingly more great than you expect going in, though this sentence probably ruins that surprise. Oh well.)

Though Tenacious D is long gone and premature retirement of "Extras" bolstered Ricky Gervais' and Merchant's philosophy of getting out while you're ahead (sadly, no Season 3), it just means "Flight of the Conchords" is even more welcome. There's always a need for songs about part-time models, robots, standing around bored and such. And there's always a welcome mat out for series about show-business failure, particularly if the people involved seem really nice (but not remotely cutthroat enough to make it happen).

"Flight of the Conchords" takes a little and makes a lot. Who knew that jokes about New Zealand (an overreliance on "Lord of the Rings" references to promote tourism, a disdain for the more popular Australia and the silent suffering of Americans who think you're English) could be so pitch-perfect funny? Or that two earnest and likable guys from a tiny country coming to New York City with big dreams (and acoustic guitars) -- and failing spectacularly, but doing so with a Zen mind-set and a laconic, breezy acceptance of their fate -- would be such a wonderful idea?

From SF Chronicle

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"Flight of the Conchords" struggles to take off - By Ray Richmond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Apart from "Sex and the City," HBO's comedies inspire decidedly less buzz than do its dramas. And while there is a certain consistency of vision in the likes of "Entourage," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Extras" -- single camera, no laugh track, dry, subtle, eccentric -- the laugh quotient is pretty much all over the map.

Which brings us to "Flight of the Conchords," which 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.

This last fact might well be a deal breaker given that they star in this new 12-episode summertime series, albeit one somewhat buried at 10:30 p.m. (though cushioned by its "Entourage" lead-in). In truth, the time period could help "Conchords" build buzz as an acquired taste. But the biggest problem with the first three episodes screened for review: Our slacker-nerd heroes are always sweating. You know that clammy sheen that sticks to you like a houseguest with space issues? Clement and McKenzie have it so consistently that it seems a purposeful visual conceit to help ratchet up the squirm factor -- a ratcheting we, in fact, hardly need.

The horn-rimmed Clement and grunge-infused McKenzie plopped onto the HBO radar while taking the HBO-run U.S. Comedy Arts Festival by storm in 2005, named Best Alternative Comedy Act then. The gimmick with "Flight of the Conchords" (the title also being the name of their comedy act) finds the boys struggling to make a name for themselves as transplanted New Zealanders living on New York's Lower East Side who seem to perform their folk parody act in their minds more than reality. They wait in vain for gigs that never come, whiling away their time by awkwardly chasing women and breaking into ridiculous song to express themselves more effectively. Sort of. The situations are absurd to the extreme, like Jemaine dating Bret's former girlfriend, or Jemaine deciding that a tape could be an adequate live performing replacement for his suddenly reluctant partner.

McKenzie and Clement also write the episodes (in tandem with director James Bobin) as well as co-produce, and the adaptation of their live show to a situation-comedy style is decidedly hit and miss. The incorporation of their music into the story lines proves the most entertaining element. Their mournful vibe is well-suited by the mocking tunes that also are surprisingly well-crafted, further fueling the satirical effect. But after the music stops, there isn't a whole lot going on here, funny or otherwise, and as the clock creeps toward 11 p.m. the promotion of such fragile comedic chemistry isn't going to keep viewers riveted.

Again, however, there are some nice touches in "Conchords." Those include the work of the supporting players, Rhys Darby (their dismissive manager, Murray) and Kristen Schaal (playing the boys' nerdy, inappropriately lovestruck and sole fan, Mel) as well as the boys' hangdog, often mumbly interplay as "New Zealand's 4th most popular folk parody duo."

From Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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