There’s a long and venerable history of musical-comedy duos, from the Smothers Brothers to Tenacious D. At first, this New Zealand-imported tandem seems like any of the cut-rate slacker comedies that overpopulate Comedy Central — until they burst into song and madcap lunacy ensues. Hardly a great show, those eclectic musical numbers nevertheless yield some extremely clever moments, and if nothing else, there aren’t many places you can hear a love song with lyrics like, “You’re so beautiful … Like a high-class prostitute … You could be a part-time model.”
Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are your typical sad-sack, self-absorbed struggling musicians, trying to get laid and book club gigs where they might actually get to play after dark. (Their manager makes the daft agent on “Extras” seem helpful by comparison.) It’s all pretty standard stuff, shot on a dime against grungy New York backdrops.
“Flight of the Conchords” only takes wing, as it were, once Bret — he of the tousled hair and four-day beard — and Jemaine, adorned with sprayed-on 1970s sideburns and thick glasses, lapse into their strange ditties. Along the way, they cover an impressively wide range of genres, ranging from a Pet Shop Boys homage to ballads to reggae to R&B.
Based on the four episodes previewed, the plots are almost wholly irrelevant, though there are a few wry recurring gags, like a married fan (Kirsten Schaal) who’s clearly obsessed with Bret on a groupie-like level.
Still, like a review that once referred to “Jaws” as “a thriller at sea and a bore ashore,” “Flight” is pretty much a snooze until the music starts, at which point the show kicks up into something quite weird and occasionally wonderful.
Even then, this is a slight diversion, aimed toward that younger quadrant of potential subscribers that HBO chased after by signing a multifaceted deal with Dane Cook, the inexplicably popular comic who plays arenas with his club-sized act.
Then again, not everything has to be “The Wire,” and this is HBO’s dartboard summer, where the pay service throws various new programs at its schedule, hoping to find a few that will stick and help fill the void left by Tony You-Know-Who and the gang.
From that perspective, it’s easy to see why the channel would take a flier on “Flight.” Sure, the show isn’t much to look at, but thanks to those musicvideos, there are moments when it sounds like a gem.