As first seen in Graffiti magazine
I have been watching an advance copy of the new IFC original series, “Z-Rock”. Z-Rock is a semi-scripted fictionalized account of a real Brooklyn band, Z2O. Z2O’s day job is as a band for kids’ parties, “The Z Brothers”. It causes them lots of embarrassment, but at least they’re musicians full time. But even in the goofy world of kids’ bands, they struggle and the competition is fierce. Sometimes, they’re embarrassed by the rock band thing, too: they call their house-band gig a “residency.” A venue owner has a not-so secret gay crush on them. The two brothers – Paulie and David Z, along with their friend Joey Cassata – are very attractive and have a good share of musical talent.
It’s inevitable that this program will draw comparisons to HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords”. Even some of the background scenes – since they are both filmed in New York – look alike. Flight, if you haven’t seen it, is a spoof on two young New Zealanders who come to New York to make it as indie rock stars. Their agent is a bumbling New Zealander who manages them in between his day job and his family. I couldn’t get into Flight at first, because their accents were a little hard for me to follow. Plus, they go into rock fantasy streams of conscious. I didn’t go for that in “Herman’s Head,” “Ally Beal” or “Scrubs,” either. Z-Rock stays in the present.
But some of the acting on the pilot is soap-opera awkward. They say that the hardest task in acting is to play yourself and I believe it now. At this point, the band members seem to be very concerned with creating a specific image that they want you the audience to see them as. The writing is awesome, very funny. But they need to slow down the pace, even with the bit parts. Everyone is rushing through lines like a rehearsal reading.
Lynne Koplitz is pretty good as the band’s manager. I’ve loved her Comedy Central specials – and she does have genius lines like, “I’m not Jewish, but I’m a good manager. I go to temple for the connections.” Her trials and tribulations with the band remind me of some that I’ve had working with rock bands. She has no control over them whatsoever, but they give lip-service to placate her.
There are lots of gems in here, like a girlfriend they treat like Yoko Ono. They don’t cut out any nudity with the groupies, either. But there are way too many cameos: within a few minutes, I saw Joan Rivers, Greg Giraldo, Sebastian Bach, etc. It comes off as unsubtle. “Flight of the Conchords” wouldn’t mess with that stuff. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” also had a bunch of cameos, but the actors played themselves at their quirkiest. They weren’t made up characters, but they would always have some angle that made them different from what you’d expect. But that might just be part of what makes Larry David a genius.
Z-Rock’s band members themselves, even when they are being their “bad-boy” worst, are all amiable. And that’s where they differ from other band spoofs, such as Spinal Tap and Dill Scallion. Nobody comes off like a prick or stupid meathead. No matter what they do, you still root for them to succeed.