Flight of the Conchords
I admit that I am not much of a musical guy. I don’t like musical numbers in my movies or TV shows at all. Its too contrived and just not enjoyable for me. And yet, I love Flight of the Conchords.
Perhaps its the humour infused into the music that wins me over. In fact, that’s almost certainly the reason. Flight of the Conchords is almost a parody of musicals while still wholly being a musical in its own right. And its hilarious. It never takes itself seriously, which is why I’m able to swallow its two or three musical numbers per episode.
Jemaine Clement and Bret (not Brit) McKenzie have pretty much defined the concept of deadpan humour. They are wonderful in their line delivery and their naive natures. Contrast that with the exuberance of their music agent Murray (what is it with talent agent characters being hilarious in TV shows??), and you have a hit formula on your hands.
The Conchords started off as a musical humour band along the same lines of Weird Al (with less direct song parodies though) and turned their musical act into a show about two down-on-their-luck musicians from New Zealand who try to hit it big in New York. Thanks to the duo’s catalog of hilarious songs, they are able to work some hilarious musical numbers into their equally hilarious story-lines. Conchords is a concept that shouldn’t work, but succeeds in carving out its own niche regardless.
Season 1 – The first of the series’s only two seasons starts off strong and drifts off into a weak ending. I would say that the first five episodes are by far the strongest. The pilot “Sally” really sets the mood of the show well. More importantly, it pulls off the very first musical number, a hilarious piece called The Most Beautiful Girl in the room (depending on the room), just right, setting a precedent for the entire show. The episode Mugged is equally as funny as Bret and Jemaine get mugged after pulling off their rap song, and eventually reconcile with their muggers.
However, my favourite episode is the episode Yoko, partly because I like the Bert/Coco dating storyline, but mostly because the song he sings to her, If Your Into It, I found to be their funniest song.
Once they get to the David Bowie episode, it becomes evident that the duo has used up their best songs already and starting to dip into their secondary catalog. The storylines are still funny for the most part, but they are a little weaker due to the lack of hilarious musical bits.
Season 2 – Going into season 2, I did not have high expectations considering that the latter half of season 1 convinced me that they had already ran out of material. However, I was proved wrong. After a less-than-stellar season premiere (which basically serves to get things back to their normal state), they had some really knock out episode,s and the spark went back into their songs as well. We see Jemaine selling his body on the streets in “The New Cup”, we get “The Tough Brets”, which includes a great number “Hurt Feelings” and we get the president of New Zealand and the opening of Murray’s New Zealand Town.
However, the show only lasted these two seasons, so at the end they had to wrap everything up with the episode “Evicted”. And they did a great job. We see Mel and Doug’s storyline wrap up surprisingly well, and we see the boys giving their dream one last shot with a Flight of the Conchords musical before heading home. What I really love here is the bookend instrumental scenes. Great stuff.
Ranking of the Seasons
Favourite Character – Both Bret and Jemaine are great characters with their naivety and likability, and its hard to choose between them. So I wont! Instead I’m going to choose their agent Murray Hewitt as my favourite character. So this is the third time I have chosen a talent agent as my favourite character (the others being Ari from Entourage and Darren from Extras), but they are all vastly different characters. Murray plays upon a certain innocence which works well when put beside the two leads. He should be a successful worker at the New Zealand consulate but instead he cares more about managing the failing band. His meetings in which he demands they take attendance at are always some great scenes, and he really adds a lot to the show overall.
Final Thoughts – Flight of the Conchords is certainly a unique sort of show which plays to a unique sort of sensibility. The concept of the comedy/musical is a tricky one, but they manage to do it just right. The three main characters are very likable and funny and the songs are great, and this is coming from someone who cringes whenever characters on the screen start to sing. Conchords may not be in the conversation of greatest comedies of all time, but it may be a part of the pre-conversation. It had a rare innocent quality while still being fresh, something which today’s hard-edged world doesn’t see much of these days.