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This Week In History: Flight of the Conchords Makes Television Premiere

On June 17, 2007, Flight of the Conchords, the “almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand,” aired the first episode of their hit HBO television series. Despite it being a massive success, launching creators Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie to stardom, the duo would only produce two seasons of the show.

Along their journey from performing on New Zealand local cable to taking over American television, the duo had earned awards from the US Comedy Arts Festival, Melbourne Comedy Festival, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in addition to performing on a radio series on the BBC. The success of the radio series led to their first American television appearance on HBO’s One Night Stand. The One Night Stand appearance earned the duo an offer for a twelve-part series based on their BBC radio show.

Jemaine and Bret first met in Wellington, New Zealand where they were living as University roommates studying film. Jemaine started the comedy ensembles So You’re a Man and The Humourbeasts with his friend Taika Waititi, whose own career would lead him to direct What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok.

After the success of the first run of episodes, Bret and Jemaine toiled over the second season. Although it was well-received, working on the show had became exhausting for the duo and they decided to pursue other projects. Bret was hired to work as the music supervisor for The Muppets film starring Jason Segal, and ended up writing four of the five original songs on the soundtrack. One of the songs, “Man or Muppet,” won him an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He was also awarded the honour of the New Zealand Order of Merit, the country’s highest honour, for his work in film and television. His Lord of the Rings character “Figwit,” who made brief appearance as a beautiful elf in The Fellowship of the Ring , developed a cult following and was cast again in The Return of the King.

Jemaine’s post Flight of the Conchords career led to voice roles in Despicable Me , Men in Black 3, and Moana. Along with his old comedy partner Taika Waititi, Jemaine co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in the critically-acclaimed vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, which currently sits at #68 on the Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 comedies of all time. He currently stars as a psychic mutant in the Marvel series Legion.

The duo has since reunited for live appearances, and are currently on tour in the UK. Earlier this year, they made an unofficial announcement that they will air a special one-off episode of Flight of the Conchords some time in 2018.

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