Flight of the Conchords – New Season
Put your ear to the door of HBO’s management office and that soft whooshing sound you’ll hear on the other side is the wind of change. The demise of Tony Soprano and his compelling anxiety attacks has left them minus their award-winning cash cow. The wrapping up of The Wire has left them without their critically acclaimed prestige series. With smash hits such as Californication, Weeds and Dexter, rival network Showtime is fast breathing down their necks. Electing to throw a few darts at a board rather than simply panic they’ve hit a bullseye with this ultra-low budget blend of Weird Al music parody (only much smarter) and plotless sketch comedy (only much funnier).
Based on the life of Kiwi songsters Brett and Jermaine and their titular, monstrously unsuccessful band, Flight of the Conchords finds fodder in painfully deadpan banality (an entire episode built around Brett’s unauthorized purchase of a new coffee mug), and slightly odd sounding accents in ways not seen since Fargo. Sticking to their promise of all-killer, no filler (they used up every single song in their repertoire in season one) this second voyage of “New Zealand’s fourth most popular comedy-folk duo” has been cut down to a mere ten episodes, but hasn’t lost a lick of its inimitably daft charm.
With a steadfastly loyal fan base of one (a creepy, oddly perverse stalker named Mel masterfully played by comedienne Kristen Schaal), and a mother-hen manager, Murray (who won’t book gigs at night because that’s when those who ridicule roam the streets), this pair of defiantly naive bumpkins continue to try to lift the band’s non-existent profile (they have a gig at the library!). Meanwhile, they scrape a living dressed as giant condoms and offering themselves male escorts who aren’t comfortable going any further than hugging.
While the shows’ primary selling point is undoubtedly the whacky songs and catchy lyrics (“Sugarlumps” is a certainty to become this season’s anthem, a la “Business Time”) the space in-between is lightly peppered with subtle monologues of deadpan, melancholic, introspection that helped make the likes of Wes Anderson a star. Best of all are the numerous go-nowhere squabbles that take place without voices ever being raised above the monotone; “We’re poor, we need some money” … ”alright, let’s look in the moneybox. Four dollars in the box” … ”I thought we had ten?” … ”Well, the box cost six.”
Comedy bands are admittedly ten-a-penny these days, but what makes Conchords a cut above is the sheer range they draw inspiration from. From Pet Shop Boys homage synthpop, through reggae and David Bowie to full on power ballads, there isn’t a genre that goes un-slighted. But it’s all so understated, and refreshingly free of the kind of flailing flamboyance that makes the likes of Jack Black so tiresome. These guys know they’re hysterical, and there is a real air of quiet confidence to their poker-faced dimwit act that’s neither forced nor overwritten.
Extra special praise must again be heaped on Rhys Darby for the role of Murray. So unapologetic in his ineptitude he maintains an air of superiority, despite calling this “emergency band meeting” in his car, which is also doubling as his office space – and his house.
Starring: Bret McKenzie, Jermaine Clement, Kristen Schaal, Rhys Darby, Arj Barker
Created By: Bret McKenzie & Jarmaine Clement