Synopsis by Tim DiGravina
The idea for zany theatrical, musical duo Tenacious D to have a show on HBO sprang from the creative minds of bandmembers Jack Black and Kyle Gass thanks to producers, co-writers, and co-creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross. Odenkirk and Cross were no strangers to comedy or HBO, having perfected their own style of quirky, subversive humor on Mr. Show on the cable network. Black made a series of memorable cameo appearances on Mr. Show, shining brightest in a couple of musical numbers. His own show centers on the musical adventures of his two-man band Tenacious D. The series follows the band through epic acoustic performances at open mic night and through various encounters with the interesting characters that pepper their twisted world. Gass plays Kyle, basically a straight man with a vacant smile, ready at any minute to throw a line of fodder to set off Black's over-the-top and beyond freak outs. Jack Black's Jack is a sweaty, portly, livewire of energy who tackles profanity with an otherworldly artistry. The guys routinely misinterpret their own reality. They think they're legitimate rock stars, even though they regularly muster only tepid audience appreciation at open mic night. The show's addictive pull comes from its mixture of absurdly surreal humor, brilliant characterizations, smart attack-and-retreat scripts, and invigorating live performances and music video montages of the band. Guest stars included David Cross as a standup comic nun; Black's real-life significant other writer/actress Laura Kightlinger as an aggressive, amorous groupie; shaggy Randee of the Redwoods actor Jim Turner as the leader of Jesus Ranch; and Paul Thomas Anderson regular John C. Reilly as a Sasquatch with a heart of gold and shady drumming skills. A handful of other Mr. Show alumni play minor characters as well. Perhaps most notable among them is Paul F. Tompkins as the hilarious, dry club manager. Tenacious D, the series, first aired as two short films, trailing episodes of Mr. Show in 1997. In 1999, HBO aired the two original episodes and four new episodes, packaged together in groups of two. At the close of each episode was a kind of bonus segment where Black and Gass did a few minutes of straight-faced comedy a la the Smothers Brothers on-stage with a laugh track. Though Black was already building himself a solid career as a character actor, Tenacious D helped him to step into the spotlight in a major way, as he scored career-making roles in High Fidelity, Shallow Hal, and other films. In September of 2001, Tenacious D released their self-titled debut on Sony Records to good sales, and they accompanied the album with a tour that saw routine sell-outs. The rabid cult following for Black and the D owes a great deal to the innovative scripts and warped, perhaps genius energy of the television series.