It's hard to believe the entertainment universe is indulgent enough to support even a single charmingly/creepily co-dependent musical-comedy duo with a show on HBO, let alone two. Yet a mere eight years after Tenacious D ended its six-episode run on HBO, the pay-cable king scored a sleeper hit with Flight Of The Conchords, another show about a pair of impoverished musicians crawling slowly up the show-business ladder from the bottom, one torturous rung at a time. But where Tenacious D is fueled by Jack Black's live-wire energy and manic facial contortions, Conchords redefines deadpan. Imagine The Monkees filtered through Hal Hartley at his best, with set decoration by Wes Anderson and punch-ups by Steven Wright, and you have an idea of the show's hilariously detached genius.
Conchords follows New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as they try to make it in show business with the help of their equally hapless manager. Throughout the season, their personal and professional bonds are forever being tested, ruptured, and restored. A typical episode approaches an absurd set of complications with Saharan dryness, like when McKenzie gets a job holding signs, instantly becomes a suit-wearing, Bluetooth-using yuppie, and is replaced in the band by an audio cassette, before things end exactly where they began.
There's always been something absurd about the way music invades everyday life in musicals. Conchords stokes this surreal incongruity to giddy extremes as two stone-faced guys who rarely smile or express human emotions suddenly morph into singing, dancing goofballs during the show's delightful musical sequences. These loving, diverse musical pastiches betray a profound love for what they're spoofing, especially during an episode-length Bowie homage that could only come from two guys who spent considerable time devouring the oeuvre of pop music's preeminent chameleon. So it's incredibly frustrating that the bare-bones Conchords DVD doesn't even have a jukebox feature to isolate the songs and video sequences from the episodes that house them. Time will tell how long these masters of minimalism will be able to maintain such a high level of invention and hilarity out of such a seemingly limited premise. But for now, Conchords spins comic gold out of the sparest components.
Key features: None.