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Here’s the first episode of “Flight of the Conchords”—which focuses on “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk-parody duo” of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie and their attempts to break into the New York music and dating scene. The show features a lot of cameos from downtown talents like Eugene Mirman, Arj Barker and Kristen Schaal as a fan who loves the band in ways that make the duo less than comfortable. I was pretty much sold from Clement’s backhanded compliment serenade to Sally (Rachel Blanchard of the brilliant British sitcom “Peep Show” - watch for the homage late in the episode). Songs that are meant to be laughed at are hard to do and even harder to do when you stick them inside the plot of a show. A bad one stops it cold. But this was solid all the way through.
HBO has kind of a soft spot for funny folk rock as they were home for the Tenacious D TV show. As I remember, they never gave that much of a push so it’s nice to see a show which appeals to a similar audience getting promoted. (Jonathan Coulton, HBO will be asking you for a script to “Code Monkey” any day now.)
“Flight of the Conchords” premieres on HBO June 17 at 10:30.
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Andy Barker, P.I. premieres tonight. But thanks to the major networks’ stumbling, some would say desperate, embrace of the web, six episodes are available to watch on NBC’s website. One of them won’t even see TV as it’s a web exclusive. I’m thrilled by the opportunity to try and hook people before a show airs, but I hope this new kind of strategy doesn’t hurt Andy Barker, which is very funny and, from the two episodes I watched, deserves a long life.
It’s a lot like Conan O’Brien’s lost pilot Lookwell, as referenced in the Times article about the show. In both an unlikely man plays private eye. And the mysteries are actually mysteries, allbeit compress to work in a half-hour format. But this show is without the irony of a TV private eye playing real life dick. Instead, it has more of a heart to it, but not in a way that you feel manipulated afterwards.
Andy Barker is a nice guy, who even if there was no network censors, would probably say “Cheese and Crackers!” as an expletive. I’m almost regret that the show is on NBC and not on a pay cable outlet like HBO so that the contrast between Andy’s world and that of the hardcore gumshoe could be more apparent. (You see this a little in the web-only episode which has Amy Sedaris playing an aging femme fatale with a wooden leg. She channels Jerri Blank a bit when she describes herself as “dewy” for private dicks.)
It’s been hard to find a great venue for Andy Richter. Here’s hoping that it can stick around for a while (and not at the expense of 30 Rock, which has come into its own and deserves a second season).
Has anyone else enjoyed NBC’s generous offering of episodes yet? Whadyathink?
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A quick note on how subtle and smart a background joke can be. On the last 30 Rock, the show within a show gets mired in accusations of being un-American. After a face-saving all-American salute unintentionally reveals a number of swastikas, protesters gather outside the offices. I noticed one of the protesters carrying a sign for what looked to be an atypical Bible verse.
That verse - Ecclesiastes 10:19 - reads:
A meal is made for laughter, and wine makes life pleasant, but money is the answer for everything.
It’s a nice little dig at religion using the good book’s own words (and to fundamentalists, God’s). Very rewarding for those who watch carefully.I think one of the great marks for quality comedy is joke density. If the writers have time enough to add background jokes, then the first layer of jokes are probably sharp. Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, on both levels, is turning out to be a first class sitcom.
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I’m very excited, even though I’m disappointed they dropped the “me” from the original title “The Sarah Silverman Programme.” It’s a stupid little detail that I just kind of enjoyed. Still what’s an “me” when there’s a lot of rave reviews. Anyway, you should be watching/tivoing/dvring Comedy Central at 10:30 PM tonight. Here’s some clips to wet your appetite:
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I’ve made no secret that I believed in the sitcom Lucky Louie. I know a number of friends who were disappointed to hear that HBO was not picking it up for a second season. Louis CK promised that it wasn’t the end, but after one meeting in an attempt to bring it to a different network, he posted on the comedy message board aspecialthing.com that trying to make Lucky Louie anywhere outside of HBO would be “a huge mistake.” At the same time, fans have established a Save Lucky Louie campaign independent of Louis own efforts. And according to Louie, getting HBO to change it’s mind is the only hope the show has.
I’m never very optimistic about these campaigns, but several of my friends, my wife and myself have found this show to be refreshingly honest inside the three-camera format that has, in recent years, been anything but honest. It’s an unique gem. If we only get the one season and the requisite DVD release, I’ll be pleased that we got that. But if there’s a way that we can get more, let’s give it a shot.
First, if you haven’t been driven away from myspace by rabid marketing bulletins, there’s the Save Lucky Louie myspace page which is pretty good about co-ordinating the efforts. Add it to your top 8, 12, 16, 20, 1000.
There’s also an online petition, which has over 6,000 signatures so far. If you go back a ways you’ll even see other comics have signed the petition themselves.
And folks can also write HBO directly about Lucky Louie. As co-star Jim Norton said: “They’re a big company but they aren’t deaf.” Just don’t call them assholes for cancelling it the first place. Be passionate but polite.
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One of the reasons why I don’t care for comedies about Hollywood anymore is that the humor cannot match the ridiculousness taking place behind the scenes. Take NBC’s upcoming 30 Rock. It was a recently announced that Rachel Dratch would no longer be appearing as the lead of “The Girlie Show” - the show within the show. Instead she would appear as different characters each week, supposedly to take advantage of her sketch comedy chops. In conjunction, they mentioned that the character she was to play had been downgraded - even cut according to some reports.
Of course, soon after an announcement came that Jane Krakowski was joining the cast to play the character that Rachel Dratch once played in the pilot. A character that was just announced in the trades to have reduced importance - not exactly an inducement to any semi-name actress.
Yesterday, The Sound of Young America’s Jesse Thorn rightfully called bullshit. I second that I smell it too. His implication is that attractiveness is an issue here, and Dratch is being pushed aside for someone less funny but more appealing. I can see it this way, but I’ll also volunteer that perhaps the role has been reduced and Krakowski didn’t know when she took it. I think the first is more likely, but I’ll consider that Dratch might not be the one, well, getting the shaft here.
The irony: “Girlie Show” - the show within a show - is a more female friendly sketch comedy until a network exec, played by Alec Baldwin, monkeys with it. Pushing aside a talented, funny player for someone considered more attractive and demographically appealing is exactly what that character does. In the pilot script I read, Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon only brings on an crazed African-American comedian on the show not only in hopes of saving the lead’s job but to have a hit show that makes enough money so she won’t ever have to change her own child’s diapers. Why make TV making fun of devil’s bargains if you’re going to engage in them yourself?
Some of the treasures to be found are Gervais’ more British influences. And as someone who consider himself “a cult comedian who got more famous than he should have,” there’s a lot of material there. The most curious to me was Derek and Clive, the alter egos that Dudley Moore and Peter Cook took for a series of recordings in the 1970s that started as an incredibly filthy private joke that became so widely bootlegged that they actually ended up releasing them (Gervais mentions bootlegging them himself). According to the wikipedia entry on the pair the recording of Ad Nauseam features a rant about the death of Peter Cook’s father from cancer delivered with full knowledge that Dudley Moore’s father was dying of cancer. I’m intensely curious and can’t wait to hear them. Sadly the first Derek and Clive Live (Gervais’ favorite comedy album) doesn’t seem to be available over Amazon so you’ll have to be a Acquisition-enabled Gervais to get it.
The second point of interest to me was Gervais’ intention to never do the wonderful series concluding The Office Special. His gateway to creating the special was to acknowledge the reality that there was a documentary crew filming the characters and proceeding from there (leading to David Brent as Austin Powers at a pub appearance, something that will crush any wayward desires to ever yell “Yea Baby!” again). It specifically made me think about the American Office and how, if ever, they should address the camera’s effects on the employees of Dunder Mifflin. If you keep to the reality of it being a serialized documentary, the season ending kiss with Pam and Jim should certainly affect Pam’s impending wedding. As the characters begin to acknowledge the cameras with glances and occasional short conversations more and more, it might be a question they have to deal with. I’d hate to see the show become about reality entertainment however (though Steve Carell’s Michael Scott’s willingness to extend his fame might be hysterical to watch). It may be one of those things best swept under the carpet, particularly because once you open that particular box, you have to keep on dealing with it. But since Gervais used it so brilliantly I wonder how Executive Producer Greg Daniels and crew could handle it.
(BTW, you should really pick up Stop Smiling anyway. It’s a great mag and if you’re a Withnail and I fan, there’s an interview with Bruce Robinson as well.)