The second season of “Flight of the Conchords” premieres on HBO this Sunday, January 18 at 10 pm! Woohoo!
My DV-R will be working overtime to catch new episodes of “24″ and “Lost,” but I’m most excited about the deadpan hilarity of New Zealand’s “fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” as they try to make it big in New York City.
Not familiar with the show? Bret McKenzie (pictured, left) is the thoughtful one, easy-going but prone to angry dancing. Jemaine Clement is more sociable, self-centered, and cynical with a deep Barry White singing voice. The duo’s appeal comes through the kind of observational humor and absurdity that makes mockumentaries like “This is Spinal Tap” endlessly enjoyable.
The comedy is built, of course, around the band’s Grammy Award-winning music. I can’t get enough of the uncomfortably honest love songs (“Business Time“), the music video geek-nip (“Robots” and “Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring“) and anything by their rap alter-egos, “Hip-hopopotamus” and “Rhymenocerus.” (HBO’s “Lip Dub Fansterpiece” even invites fans to submit their own version of the band’s rap parody.)
As Kiwis, their take on American society and culture is also funny in ways you might not expect. Consider Bret and Jemaine’s efforts to understand American racism with their badly-informed friend, Dave, from episode 7:
Bret: “So he wouldn’t serve us, basically, just because we’re from New Zealand.”
Jemaine: “Is that the norm?”
Dave: “Well, you guys are in America now. There’s a lot of ‘prejudism’ here. Especially towards people like you.”
Bret: “What do you mean, ‘people like us’?”
Dave: “You know, the English and whatnot. Redcoats. The oppressors.”
Jemaine: “We’re not English –”
Dave: “Be that as it may, Jemaine, you’re pretty much the most disliked race in this whole country.”
Jemaine: “Wh-What…What about Black people?”
Dave: “They don’t like you either. Neither do the Chinese. The Asians. Polish. Russian. Croatians. Even the Indians.”
Bret: “Yeah, but, Dave you’re Indian. You hate us?”
Dave: “Yeah… Sometimes.”
Jemaine: “But you’re our best friend.”
Dave: ( sadly) “…I know.”
Muddled assumptions, wordplay, and subtle social critique. What more do you need? While I may not be part of the show’s initial target audience, I count myself among its small, but obsessively loyal fan base. I’ve watched all 12 episodes of the first season on DVD with the kind of compulsive hysteria typically reserved for a children’s cartoon. I even have a “Flight of the Conchords” coffee mug on my kitchen shelf (sitting, ironically, between a mug I bought at the Frederick Douglass House in D.C. and another from a Jacob Lawrence art exhibit in Atlanta).
So if the show ever decides to cast an African-American version of the band’s number-one stalker fan, Mel, I’m ready.
Those curious about “Flight of the Conchords” may want to catch up on DVD, iTunes, or HBO on Demand. I watched the new season’s premiere online and, although it’s little more than a transitional episode, it’s cool to see the band’s hapless manager, Murray, getting more attention. Plus, you’ll be humming their ad jingle for “Femident” women’s toothpaste for the rest of the day!
Are you a fan of “Flight of the Conchords”? What’s your favorite episode and/or song from the show? What did you think of the premiere?