Wednesday, July 11, 2007

 

Revisiting John, taking Flight

By Edward Copeland
I've finished watching the fourth and fifth episodes of John From Cincinnati, meaning I'm halfway through its 10-episode run and I think I'm in for the duration, even though I still have more qualms about the show than I do praise. especially after the extremely uneven fifth episode. On the other hand, after the first four episodes of Flight of the Conchords, I'm unapologetically a fan of the quirky and somewhat hard-to-describe comic find on HBO.


John From Cincinnati revisited

After an admittedly lukewarm reaction to the first three episodes of this series, its odd tone really grew on me in its fourth installment. I still am unclear where it's heading (and given the less-than-enthusiastic reaction, I wonder if we'll have any better idea by the end of this run of episodes which could end up being all it gets).

It's definitely some sort of twisted welding of surfing and spirituality, but I'm not sure whether it adds up or even if it can. What I do know is that I find the peripheral characters such as Ed O'Neill's ex-cop, Garret Dillahunt's mystified doctor and Dayton Callie's Hawaiian drug dealer, much more interesting than any of the presumed main characters from the Yost family.

I even like the odd trio from the motel (Luis Guzman, Willie Garson and Matt Winston) despite the fact that I see no purpose as of yet for their roles (In the fifth episode, they don't even appear). However, the Yost family itself bores me to tears, especially in the fifth installment which focused almost exclusively on them.

I've been a fan of Bruce Greenwood for many years, but his Mitch, levitating or not, is just dull and the rest of his clan is little better. Also, the title character, the Rain Man-esque, possible Christ figure John (Austin Nichols) still annoys me as often as he entertains. As I commented on Keith Uhlich's post about the fifth episode at The House Next Door:
If it gets a second season, perhaps they should have Vietnam Joe, Steady Freddy and Bill open a bar together (as long as Garret Dillahunt's doctor is a regular patron. Hell, Dillahunt can play all the patrons as far as I'm concerned).

Still, I'm ready to ride this wave out until at least the end of its first season.

Flight of the Conchords

On the other hand, I have no reservations about the loopy comedy of Flight of the Conchords. Starring New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, who also co-created the series, the title comes from their real-life band that they describe as the "fourth most popular folk parody band in New Zealand" but with whom I was unfamiliar until this series.

They are struggling in New York with few gigs provided by their hilarious manager Murray (Rhys Darby), who conducts their business in the office of his real job at the New Zealand Consulate.

Any description of the show really won't do it justice as each week provides only the loosest of plots interrupted by their odd musical numbers. (This week's episode contained one of my favorites so far with the lyric "Life is like a retractable pencil/push it too far and it's going to break.")

The band does manage to have a fan club, whose only member is an obsessive married woman (Kristen Schaal) with a husband so understanding he drives her to her frequent stalking of Bret and Jemaine. Some of the best lines turn out to be nonsequiturs uttered by guest characters that go by so subtly, you're likely to miss them.

It's hard to put into words my affection for this show, but what it reminds me of is a treasured show from my childhood, the British comedy The Goodies. The plots aren't anywhere as outlandish as that old comedy trio was (there is no planet run by rabbits), but somehow its loopy humor brings me back to those days.

I don't know how long Flight of the Conchords can keep up this pace, but they have me hooked so far.


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Comments:
there's no funnier character on television at the moment that murray the manager - everything he does is hilarious
 
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