Flight of the Conchords is so naturally performed and so inexpensively produced it’s hard to see why it belongs on HBO at all. The show from the kiwi folk comedy duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement is an offbeat, but not irreverent single-camera sitcom that lacks the scale, substance, and sensibility of most HBO series. That’s not an indictment, but a warning. Flight of the Conchords isn’t Entourage or Sex in the City or even Extras. It’s different. And sometimes different is just good.
Sometimes, different also means breaking into spontaneous song. This episode of Flight of the Conchords boasts three musical numbers, all fitting into the storyline of a New Zealand band trying to make it in New York. That’s not how we first meet Flight of the Conchords, though. We follow them to a party where Jemaine (you may recognize him from those Outback Steakhouse commercials) falls for a girl who could (now sing this part) “definitely be in the top three hottest girls on the street, depending on the street.”
Her name is Sally, and she once dated Jemaine’s buddy Bret. While Jemaine juggles his loyalty to Bret and his love for…oh, just stop. You know what? The story isn’t that important. The show is about two comedians making music. The songs are where the moments of brilliance lie.
The fun, quirky music videos that pop-up can make this long half-hour worth watching. The 10 or so minutes in between numbers aren’t groundbreaking comedy. Those interludes aren’t even Saturday Night Live funny. But the music makes the difference.
Still, a quick YouTube search for the duo, Flight of the Conchords, proves more rewarding than actually watching an entire episode of the TV show. Why listen to these guys pine on premium cable when you can listen to better songs, ones about racist dragons, via the Internet?
YouTube, Comedy Central, or even PBS could have given Flight of the Conchords, a solid show when not compared to HBO’s usual fare, a suitable home. Sure, the duo has already appeared on HBO’s One Night Stand, but the oddly loveable comedians can’t pull off the half-hour storyline required of a sitcom. The fact is that with a CD coming out later this year, Flight of the Concords, the TV show, feels like a marketing gimmick for Flight of the Conchords, the band. I’m not saying they aren’t good, but with this show, they certainly are just passing through.
Flight of the Conchords premieres Sunday, June 17 at 10:30 p.m. You can see the entire first episode on HBO.com.