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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Z Rock
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Illustration for article titled Z Rock
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(Premieres Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET on IFC)

One of the things I love about Flight Of The Conchords is the way it subverts and comments cheekily on rock and roll mythology, particularly in the episode where the boys go on tour and accidentally end up embodying just every rock-star cliché. The new IFC comedy Z Rock, which premieres Sunday at 11:30 PM on IFC, resembles Flight Of The Conchords just enough to suffer by comparison.

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Like HBO's cult hit, Z Rock is a single-camera comedy about a struggling New York music group ostensibly playing themselves. In this case they're Paulie and David Z and Joey Cassata, a trio of hairy heavy metal meatheads who moonlight as a kid's band called The Z Brothers despite a semi-distinguished non-kiddie career that peaked with a gig opening for KISS. Where Flight Of The Conchords is droll and deadpan, Z Rock is ramshackle, sloppy and over-the-top, a cornucopia of broad caricatures and obvious gags telegraphed far in advance.

Here at The A.V Club, we've kicked around the idea of doing an Inventory about ubiquitous clichés we'd love to retire. One suggestion was characters saying they won't do something, immediately followed by a shot of them doing exactly what they pledged not to do. In the case of Z Rock, two of the boys (they tend to bleed together to me, except for the guy with giant Jewfro) promise not to bang a pair of groupies, a shot that is predictably followed by the Z Boys getting blow jobs from groupies in their van. In a totally non-shocking turn of events, the boy's schizophrenic dual lives bleed into each other when the groupies pop up as respectable suburban moms at a kids party the Z Brothers play. Needless to say, subtlety and understatements are not weapons in the show's comic arsenal.

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Nor is Z Rock averse to recycling hackneyed clichés. The first episode introduces such familiar archetypes as the hard-partying, overly aggressive sleazebag agent unencumbered by morals and decency and the coked-up, obnoxious, music industry bigwig (Greg Giraldo, in a rare appearance outside Comedy Central). Self-deprecating celebrity cameos have become a degraded commodity in a post-Entourage world. In its debut episode alone, Z Rock boasts extended appearances from Joan Rivers and Sebastian Bach, two plastic surgery victims who now look disconcertingly like each other. Dave Navarro, however, has a pretty inspired turn on the third episode as the director of the group's first music video. Navarro plays himself as a petty, opportunistic tyrant with the brilliant idea to finally combine children, music and porn stars and ditches the fellas after he scores a primo gig on Celebrity Rehab.

For all its obvious gags and familiar tropes, Z Rock is fairly likable, mildly amusing and reasonably engaging, with a loose, improvisational, pop-culture damaged aesthetic that is becoming increasingly common in shows throughout the basic-cable spectrum.

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The boys have an unfortunate habit of talking like sailors within earshot of adorable tots; a running joke that's never as hilarious as the makers seem to think. The show's ham-fisted juxtaposition of kiddie entertainment and gratuitous profanity and lusty bad behavior is positively Death to Smoochytastic, a description that will serve as a dire warning to some and a ringing endorsement to others.

Grade: B-

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