http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and- ... s:archive7HBO's Troubadours Take Flight
by Jace Lacob
The co-creator of Flight of the Conchords discusses its odes to Midnight Cowboy and Magnolia, working with Michel Gondry and whether there will ever be a third season.
Male prostitution. Gangland warfare. Stalkers. Epileptic dogs. No, itâ€™s not a hard-hitting HBO drama, itâ€™s a gleefully absurd cult HBO comedy, Flight of the Conchords, which tracks the misadventures of two luckless Kiwi singer-songwriters as they attempt to score with the ladies and break into the New York hipster music scene with their own inimitable folk-rock band.
The result is one of the most quirky, winsome, and unique series on television, nominated for six Emmy awards, including Comedy Series, Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Directing for a Comedy Series, Writing for a Comedy Series, Original Music and Lyrics, and Sound Mixing.
Created by James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, and Bret McKenzie (the latter of which play themselves onscreen), Flight of the Conchords offers its audience a glimpse into a topsy-turvy world where just about anything is possible, including spontaneous singing, tongue-in-cheek dream sequences, and elaborate music videos spanning a range of musical styles.
In the second season, the memorably eccentric supporting characters, including the band's fan/stalker Mel (Kristen Schaal), band manager Murray (Rhys Darby), dim-witted capitalist Dave (Arj Barker), and Melâ€™s hapless husband Doug (David Costabile) all get a chance to sparkle under the spotlight while Bret and Jemaine make one (potentially) final grasp at stardom and land themselves back in New Zealand, where they return to their former careers as shepherds.
Is it curtains for the band that brought us "Sugalumps," a rap-spiced ditty about male genitalia? Only time will tell. But what's certain is that Flight of the Conchords will continue to enthrall its fan base for years to come. The Daily Beast spoke to creator James Bobin.
Jace Lacob is the writer/editor of Televisionary, a website devoted to television news, criticism, and interviews. Jace resides in Los Angeles. He is a contributor to several entertainment Web sites and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.Jemaine Goes to Scarborough Fair
Image: photo credit: HBO What was your favorite scene or song from Season 2?
â€œI always liked â€˜Demon Woman,â€™ which is one that not many people like as much. Jemaineâ€™s performance in it is so brilliant; Jemaine is enjoying that moment so much, being that rock [god] in a full leather jumpsuit... Also, â€˜Prime Minister,â€™ which I think is what we put forward for the show. Itâ€™s an episode I love because of the Art Garfunkel moment, where Jemaine enters dressed as Art Garfunkel in the â€˜70s and Art Garfunkel is there looking the same. I love that scene; it always makes me laugh. Thank goodness [Garfunkel] agreed to do it. We wrote that scene before he agreed to do it. We had a very happy moment when he said yes. It could have been really awkward if we had to put someone else in as Art Garfunkel or rewrite the entire episode.â€ Supporting Players
Image: HBO/Craig Blankenhorn What was the most surprising development of the second season for you?
â€œThe other characters. We tended to go outside the world of Bret and Jemaine, toward Murray, Dave, and Mel. I really liked how we brought Arj [Barker]â€™s character Dave into the series more because he was a character that wasnâ€™t in it a lot in Season One; he was in it occasionally as sort of their go-to guy for advice about how to be American. I think that Season Two, we needed him somewhat more and it just felt like a natural thing. Arj did a great job. Heâ€™s very natural at that, Arj, at being a sort of confident idiot, which are my favorite sort of characters. His performance was really great this year, as were Rhys and Kristenâ€™s. They were great but I was particularly surprised and pleased by how Dave came into play this season.â€œEnsemble Evolution
Image: HBO/Paul Schiraldi Did you know starting out how popular these secondary characters would become?
â€œNo. We set out to create a world for Bret and Jemaine and the supporting characters were exactly that, they were supposed to support the main two characters. As we got into it, we found there was more to them and they had great depth. When you sketch out a character, you always hope that itâ€™s going to go that way but you donâ€™t always knowâ€¦ The actors bring a great, three-dimensional aspect to it. By now, the show is like a whole family, which I really like because weâ€™ve got an ensemble cast of really funny comedy actors. I couldnâ€™t be more pleased because when you start out, youâ€™ve no idea how theyâ€™re going to gel as a team, but when it starts getting as smooth as it was by the time we were up and running Season Two, itâ€™s really great.â€When You're a Bret You're a Bret
Image: HBO/Paul Schiraldi Youâ€™re up for a directing nomination for â€œThe Tough Brets,â€ which takes its inspiration from West Side Story. Was it a challenge mixing such different styles within that episode?
â€œWe had a rough template of West Side Story but also the whole sort of gang culture that we tapped into with the lost list of gangs that Seymour Cassell belongs toâ€¦ We didnâ€™t make them up; those were actual gang names in the 1940s and â€˜50s. We loved that and once that character, Johnny Boy, came together, we knew we had the episode. We have the storyline with Murray and his hurt feelings, the â€˜Hurt Feelingsâ€™ video is a kind of rap video, and then we have the â€˜Hurt Feelings (Reprise),â€™ which is kind of a Magnolia tribute. Itâ€™s a lot of different directing styles, because there is straight-out comedy... but then some very filmic sequences.â€ Outside Influences
Image: HBO/Paul Schiraldi Where does the inspiration come from for the elaborate musical numbers? Do you look to specific musical icons, films, or famous music videos?
â€œWe do. Partly because weâ€™re from overseas we have a different musical knowledge in terms of music videos. I think itâ€™s quite useful for us to have that because it means we can bring some unusual or obscure stuff to peopleâ€™s attentionâ€¦ When I hear one of their songs, I often think of a particular styleâ€¦ Like the Jemaine prostitute song from â€˜New Cup,â€™ itâ€™s a rock-sounding song but there were a lot of songs at that time discussing nightlife. Thereâ€™s the Pat Benatar video for â€œLove Is a Battlefieldâ€™ thatâ€™s quite similar in a neon-y, â€˜80s way and I love that. Thatâ€™s kind of what itâ€™s based on and that outfit Jemaine wears at the end is literally what Jon Voight wears in Midnight Cowboy.â€Michel Gondry
Image: HBO Conchords is also up for an Emmy for the song â€œCarol Brown.â€ What was it like to put together that particular episode with Michel Gondry?
â€œIt was great. Michel is good friends with our costume designer, Rahel [Afiley]. She said heâ€™s a big fan and would love to do an episode. We met up and talked about an episode that we wanted him to do about Jemaine and his Australian girlfriend. Itâ€™s difficult coming into a show thatâ€™s already establishedâ€¦ But he did a great job. He didnâ€™t want to go too far away from what the show wasâ€¦ but, working with the music videos, he was able to have a much more free hand. Hence, the â€˜Carol Brownâ€™ video, which I think is one of the best of the series, with multiple images and that weird video mixing deck, which is a very cool, very Gondry-esque idea.â€ Jemaine for Outstanding Supporting Actor
Image: HBO/Craig Blankenhorn Given the steep competition in the acting category, were you pleasantly surprised by Jemaine Clementâ€™s nomination?
â€œNot surprised in the sense that he totally deserves it, butâ€¦ Iâ€™m amazed that anyone had heard of the show. When you look at the size of the show in terms of budget, audience figures, weâ€™re in a different league than everyone else in the category. And to be fair, every show Iâ€™ve ever done, whether that be Ali G or Conchords has always been a tiny underdog. Which I am happy to be in because I feel itâ€™s a very natural position for us to be in, so thatâ€™s fine. You always imagine itâ€™s going to be your Steve Carells or your Alec Baldwins or those guys as the Emmys tend to be quite conservative and tend to not go out there and look for the more unusual performances. I was really pleased.â€ Gaming the System
Image: HBO/Craig Blankenhorn Do you think the change in Emmy voting regulations played in your favor?
â€œUnder the committee system, I think we would have been voted out because weâ€™re too unusual. But because itâ€™s popular choice and people seem to love the show, hopefully that swung it our way. I think it helped with the show getting nominated for Best Comedy Program. Thereâ€™s a pretty large field of comedies out there with shows that have 10 times the viewers than us and 10 times the budget that donâ€™t get nominated but are equally popular in their own way. In years before, we werenâ€™t mentioned at all when they did the top six comedy programs of the year. So it was a great surprise because you donâ€™t expect that to happen like that.â€ Conchords' Future
Image: HBO Season 2 ended with Bret and Jemaine singing to the sheep in New Zealand. Are the boys ever coming back to New York? Will there be a third season?
â€œI donâ€™t know. Maybe. I think weâ€™re officially on a sort of hiatus at the moment. Weâ€™re kind of talking about it and trying to see what we want to do next. HBO has been very honorable about it and very cool and have said, we know the show is quite complex and hard to make and it takes you guys quite a long time to come up with stuff. So theyâ€™re letting it be our decision and theyâ€™d be happy for us to do it again, which is great. Weâ€™re very happy with that.â€ What Viewers Don't Know
Image: HBO/Craig Blankenhorn What is something that viewers donâ€™t know about Flight of the Conchords that would surprise them?
â€œIt was nearly a variety show. When we first talked about the show and what the show was going to be, there were a lot of crazy ideas going around. When we first started the show out, Iâ€™d seen them live loads of times and we had to kind of work out how to translate the live show onto TV. And one of the things that was discussed initially was a studio-based variety show with guests. It never really got very far but it was one of the original ideas. And it always struck me as amusing. We could have ended up with a very different kind of show had it gone that way. Kind of like The Muppet Show. (Laughs.) Maybe weâ€™ll come back and do that.â€