Saturday, August 21, 2010

Film Yap: Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Series

When the TV show Flight of the Conchords began in the summer of 2007, not many people knew of the comedy band Flight of the Conchords. The Conchords are a two-man band composed of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. They often refer to themselves as the “New Zealand’s 4th most popular folk parody duo.” That description of odd honesty and self-deprecation really is the best introduction to the band.

For years Jemaine and Bret have been touring the country as a stand-up act performing their deadpan parody songs. Transforming their material into an HBO TV show is a fascinating decision. They are never obscene which is part of their humor so having a show on premium cable is odd. Their stage presence comes from them having no charisma. They are dry and passive, but once they start performing they suddenly become animated and passionate.

The show keeps up that mentality but letting them not only bounce off each other, but also the rest of New York. When the show opens the characters of Jemaine and Bret have lived in NYC for a year or so. They usually have no money, but they have one insanely passionate fan played by Kristen Schaal of The Daily Show fame. They also have their band manager Murray, Rhys Darby, who also works at the New Zealand consulate.

These four actors are absolutely hilarious. None of the plots of the episodes are as memorable as the scenes where everyone gets to play off each other. Murray’s incompetency easily rivals The Office’s Michael Scott. There is such blissful wit and idiocy with this trio. It’s such a simple joke, but every time Murray demands they take attendance for their three person band meetings I always laugh.

Most of the episodes are revolved around two of their songs. This is the biggest draw of the show. Songs like “Hiphopapotamus vs. Rhymenoceros”, “Inner City Pressure”, Bowie”, and “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)” all make for fantastic scenes that also work as music videos. Their lyrics are incredibly clever and their low-budget production makes them even more endearing.

Since the songs are the crux of the episodes, they are what make and break the shows. During the first season they used up almost their entire catalog of songs so they had to invent new ones. Some of them were catchy like “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor,” “Hurt Feelings,” and “Rambling Through the Avenues of Time” but most of them aren’t as memorable as the ones from the first season. Also their plots are either repetitive (Just how many times can they quit the band?) or too absurd to gel with the rest of the show.

The show only lasted two seasons with 20 episodes total. They ended on their own choosing. The show was starting to wear thin at the end, but in the final episode they end it like a series finale. I was surprised that I was actually sad to see them go. The humor of the Conchords remains very unique and I hope to see more of them years from now. Clement is becoming a Hollywood star by being a featured actor in Gentlemen Broncos, Dinner for Schmucks and will play the villain in the upcoming Men in Black III.

Unfortunately the complete series doesn’t offer many bonus features. There is not a single commentary track, which was sorely missed. There is a half hour documentary that showed how the show came to be. It was made three years ago so most of them talk about how they hope the show becomes a success and they get a Season Two. (They do.) There are also a few deleted scenes, outtakes, and a few short comedy bits. All of that only lasts about 20 minutes.

A bonus disc contains their HBO concert show, which is only 30 minutes long. It is very funny and features one of the only songs that didn’t make it into the show: “Jenny”. It’s a duet of dialog about a woman who meets up with a man who has completely forgotten her, despite their embarrassingly extensive history. The concert is a blast, but it’s so short. Why are these discs so bare?!?

Season One: 4 Yaps

Season Two: 3.5 Yaps

Bonus Features: 2 Yaps

DVD Set: 3.5 Yaps

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