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Snap Judgment: 'Flight of the Conchords' pilot

With The Sopranoscoming to an end, HBO has an arsenal of new shows slated for summer and fall tohelp combat the predicted drop in ratings. One of these pilots is Flight of the Conchords, an offbeatcomedy about Bret and Jemaine, the New Zealand-based ”digi-folk” duo that movesto N.Y.C.’s East Village to promote their band and (they hope) score with some hot chicks. The seriespremieres at 10:30 p.m. on June 17, but HBO has made the hilarious first episode available online. (Watch the whole thing here. Or just watch the “Robots” music video below. Then check back after the jump to read PopWatch’s first impressions of the series.)

With FotCscheduled after Entourage on Sundaynights, HBO seems to have put together what will surely be the funniest hour ofcomedy on television. Best of all, the shows could not be more different. Entourage is all beautiful bodies, wittybanter, and Hollywood celeb-whoring; Vince and thegang go the hottest parties, eat at the finest L.A. restaurants, and havegroupies clambering after them everywhere they go. Bret and Jemaine, on theother hand, live in a small, one-bedroom apartment in New York, go to sparselyattended parties at their mate Dave’s house, and have only one fan — a girlnamed Mel who is, by all accounts, a complete maniac.

One thing that the shows may share is ascene-stealing agent. Well, in a way. FotC‘sMurray Hewitt is actually just a part-time band manager who keeps his day jobas ”Deputy Cultural Attaché” for the New Zealand Consulate to pay the bills. He also takesattendance at meetings that involve three people and films the band’s musicvideo on a cell phone. In short, he is the anti-Ari Gold, but I’m hoping heplays a significant role in the show as it progresses.

To me, the bespectacled Jemaine Clement has a sort of Napoleon Dynamitequality to him, insofar as he just looks funny even when he’s not speaking, andhe’s got a sort of awkwardly cool vibe going on. Indeed, the whole pilotvaguely reminded me of Napoleon inthe way that the characters just sort of lurk around and pour their limitedenergy into absurd activities, like constructing a ”hair helmet.” If you’veseen the trailer for EAGLE VS. SHARK,which was written and directed by Clement’s Humourbeasts collaborator TaikaCohen, you might have noticed that Clement’s style is just generally pretty weird andhilarious, rife with straight-faced non-sequiturs, silent staring, and amazingdance moves.

Sort of like a Tenacious D for the ”folk-parody” set, Bretand Jemaine have been pushing their peculiar musical-comedy act on theinternational circuit for many years. As a duo, Flight of the Conchords began to receivecritical attention after they caught a Perrier Award nomination at the 2004Edinburgh Fringe Festival, though they had already developed a cult fan basefrom the release of their live comedy album, ”Folk the World” (2002), andother festival appearances. The duo also had a successful BBC Radio show and a special spoton HBO’s 2005 stand-up comedy series ”One Night Stand.”

If you don’t have time to watch the full pilot, be sure tocheck out the song “Most Beautiful Girl in the Room,” easily the mostamazing ode to feminine mediocrity that I have ever heard.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Will FotD gain a hallowed spot in your DVR schedule? And is Jemaine weirder than Napoleon D?

Originally posted May 22 2007 — 8:38 PM EDT

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