In 1999-2000 Jon Brion shot a VH1 pilot for a music and comedy variety show that would feature lots of brainy musical artists like Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple and Biz Markie.
The network turned it down, so Paul Thomas Anderson tried to help his pal by shooting three episodes himself and funded the shoot with his own money. That did not appear to matter.
But at least we can watch it now. The video has just gone up on PTA's YouTube channel, Al Rose Promotions. While Paul Thomas Anderson's directorial participation remains largely invisible (as it should be), the video's true value is the great Elliott Smith set it offers.
Smith and Brion's free-form duet (Brad Mehldau shows up for a while, then leaves) is beautifully pared down and suitably awkward. The song choices include a lot of Dreamworks era songs but also features some great covers as well ("Waterloo Sunset" being my personal favorite). Additionally, the set includes lots of Elliott Smith's searing shyness and self-doubt and even a song restart. That guy was the Stefon of depression.
It's not really surprising this show didn't take off. I like how loose everything is, but I also got flop sweats just watching these guys try to be on television. Brion's not a gifted host. You can say that's part of the point, but you'd be full of shit.
BTW, I suppose this is as good a time as any to admit that I learned John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" from watching Look Who's Talking Too over and over again as a kid. FILMS HAVE VALUE. Also, for the first time ever, I see a very interesting if minor resemblance between Elliott Smith and DS9's Rom.
Seriously though, Elliott Smith is far and away my favorite songwriter, and I love to watch him perform. For fellow fans this is quite a gift.