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HBO's 'Conchords' mixes mirth and music

Mike Duffy
Detroit Free Press (MCT)

"Flight of the Conchords" has a goofy cool beat you can really laugh to.

Oh sure, you could also do a dizzy little dance to HBO's new adventure in freshly twisted, musically ingenious comedy.

But laughing, that's the most fun.

And that giggly pleasure is almost certainly guaranteed to anyone who surrenders to the affable, bent delights of "Flight of the Conchords," a charming, rambunctiously clever deadpan odyssey of New Zealand pop parody troubadours Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, premiering for a sweet, surreal summertime run at 10:30 p.m. EDT Sunday on HBO.

Perfectly situated in the party-hearty, single-guys comedy spot following "Entourage," "Flight of the Conchords" bounces into view as TV's most original and irresistible new comic concoction.

It's like some whimsically insane Dr. Mojo tossed "Tenacious D," "The Monkees," "Spinal Tap" and "Cop Rock" into the boogaloo blender and out popped a two-man band called Flight of the Conchords.

And so here we are on New York's Lower East Side with the culture shock and music-laced tales of Jemaine and Bret, two amusingly bewildered rock `n' roll New Zealanders scuffling to make it as musicians in America while also trying to connect with the opposite sex in a frequently awkward search for romance.

How awkward?

Well Jemaine, the tall gawky one with the deep voice, fuzzy sideburns and thick, black-rimmed glasses, winds up falling hard for Bret's former girlfriend on the screwy, beguiling series premiere. Oww, now that's awkward.

But awkward can be very, very funny, especially when guitar-strumming Jemaine or Bret or both of them break into daft, personalized ditties that play like music videos of their imagination.

These stylish, knockout musical moments, with Jemaine and Bret displaying a playfully inspired lyrical dexterity while comically channeling the musical stylings of everyone from Prince to the Pet Shop Boys and James Brown to Bob Dylan, make "Flight of the Conchords" soar hilariously even higher.

During their often misbegotten escapades, Jemaine and Bret, the shorter, less voluble, more self-effacing member of the duo, must also cope with madly obsessed fan Mel (Kristen Schaal), who doesn't let being married get in the way of her passionately deranged devotion. Then there's high-maintenance band manager Murray (Rhys Darby), a fussy stickler whose day job involves working as deputy cultural attache at New Zealand's low-budget New York consulate.

The cockeyed charms of Clement and McKenzie are the ha-ha heart and droll soul of "Flight of the Conchords." But executive producer and director Troy Miller, a veteran of the HBO cult comedies "Tenacious D" and "Mr. Show," has helped weave the show into a fluid, humorous groove that seamlessly incorporates the often inspired musical segments into an overall comic story for each episode.

Now get your hands together for the merry pranksters of music.

"Flight of the Conchords" will rock your comedy world.

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