Jermaine Clement takes swipe at TVNZ while announcing new show

tv_flight_of_the_conchords01In an interview with The Guardian, Jermaine Clement has once again spoken out about the lack of foresight in New Zealand television, referring to those who declined the pitch for Flight of the Conchords as Idiots!

New Zealand television producers refused to fund Flight of the Conchords before it became a sublime smash hit on HBO. “They’d say, ‘Middle New Zealand won’t get it.’ Idiots! I’d go, ‘What are you talking about? I’m from middle New Zealand, and you’re not.’ I always have a working-class chip on my shoulder about those people.”

The mild-mannered Clement still agrees with his past critique. “Not being too clever is a concern in New Zealand TV. It does really annoy me.”

You’ll recall that TVNZ originally turned down FOTC. Instead, endless numbers of shows with the similar formats being made by the same people are the staple for TVNZ’s commissioning program. Shows with little depth that feature plenty of sex jokes seem to be what is preferred so you can understand Jermaine’s, and others, frustrations.

The good news though, is that there is something new on the way.

Are the Conchords, dormant at the moment, waiting to erupt again? “We talk about a movie every so often,” says Clement. “Sometimes it feels like we lost a lot of impetus over the last couple of years. But Bret, James [Bobin, lead director] and me, we all want to do a musical. It would be good to do something all together … I miss playing Flight of the Conchords gigs.”

HBO have commissioned a new, four-episode comedy show, he reveals. “It was supposed to be this year but then we decided to put What We Do in the Shadows out ourselves.” He is also quietly excited to announce he is playing the lead in People, Places and Things, James Strouse’s new film about a graphic novelist.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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  • YAWN

    AH the old FOTC bashingTVNZ story – i had almost forgotten about it actually, thanks for dragging it up again. I think the underlying thing you have to realise is that there was no way tvnz was prepared to spend anywhere near the amount of money HBO did on those series (even with NZOA help) – it was high risk and they would be held accountable for it if it failed, and in the end we got a great looking couple of series from HBO to watch didn’t we?

    • Jeseta

      Agreed, if the show was made in New Zealand there is every possibility it could have failed for many reasons. Budget, setting, co-stars, etc. I think they were lucky to end up at HBO.

    • David Finch

      No-one is saying that FOTC’s original pitch to TVNZ was the same as the series that ended up on HBO. But of course they could have found the money. The HBO series doesn’t exactly scream mega-budget. Would a NZ version really have cost much more than the $$$ that have lately been poured into Rhys Darby’s “Small Poppies” (just for example)? A smarter TVNZ would have bought the rights to film FOTC Live at Bats Theatre (or similar) – a one hour special that would have cost next to nothing and tested the water for a series.

      • Regan Cunliffe

        I agree David. The HBO series was hardly a big budget production. In reality, the show could still have been made in New Zealand but still set in New York. We can make movies in NZ that are set there so why not TV?

      • Rachel555

        Just because something looks cheap, doesn’t mean it is cheap. You’re still talking about millions of dollars.

        • Regan Cunliffe

          Of course, but in reality, the series could very easily have been made in NZ.

          • Citizen Cane

            Although I think if that had happened it wouldn’t have rated as well as most New Zealanders have a very negative reaction to New Zealand comedy on tv. The overseas success certainly helped.

  • aaronimpact

    I think Jermaine should look at the positives for TVNZ not picking up FOTC. He broke into the American TV market and was able to loosely play himself and talk about NZ.

    • Regan Cunliffe

      There is certainly a silver lining for Jermaine and Brett but if we follow that argument to its logical conclusion, where does that leave every other wannabe TV producer with a great idea? If the only option for those outside the fold is to go shop their ideas to the US then that doesn’t bode our future very well at all.

      If we’re going to have NZ On Air fund local content then perhaps there needs to be a contestable fund for newcomers so that we’re investing in the future as opposed to the same old thing.