The Complete First Season
- Buy the DVD
All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ou’ve got to give credit where credit is due: HBO took a big chance on a show like “Flight of the Conchords” when no other network on television would even consider greenlighting such a high concept series – let alone one about “New Zealand’s Fourth Most Popular Folk Parody Duo.” But the fact that it’s managed a stronger reception than David Milch’s “John From Cincinnati” (a gamble that didn’t pay off for the premium channel) proves that the show is something special. From its wildly eccentric characters to its spontaneous habit of breaking out into song, “Flight of the Conchords” is unlike any other comedy on television today. If you weren’t watching it before, you’re missing out on one of the best new shows of the season.
The show is based on the New Zealand musical act of the same name, and follows hapless duo Bret (McKenzie) and Jemaine (Clement) as they move to New York City determined to become the next big thing. Along with their clueless manager Murray (Rhys Darby) – who handles all band business while working as a New Zealand consulate within the city – the Conchords must deal with a variety of issues ranging from girls, racism, New York crime, and their only fan, Mel (Kristen Schaal), whose sexual obsession with the guys is of the creepy stalker variety. Still, despite finding no success, the band marches on, playing shows in hotel lobbies and making music videos using only a camera phone, cardboard boxes and tin foil.
The band’s music may not entertain the fictional characters within the show, but it’s the glue that holds the entire series together. Covering everything from hip-hop and electronica to pop, classic rock, disco and folk, the Conchords are probably the most eclectic musical act on the planet. The lyrics themselves are absolutely brilliant, and while it would be impossible to detail each and every reason why, it’s also something that is better experienced when watching the show. Part of this is due to the fact that much of the music goes hand in hand with the on-screen action. While the songs are certainly worthy of applause, it’s the way that each one is implemented that makes for the comic moment, whether as public performances, dreams, acid trips or “Lord of the Rings”-themed music videos.
As for the performances, well, let’s just say that “Flight of the Conchords” features the funniest comedic trio on television today. Clement and McKenzie, who’ve been working together under the Conchords moniker for nearly a decade, are pitch-perfect as the clueless musicians, while fellow New Zealand comic Rhys Darby steals almost every scene with his nice-guys-finish-last shtick. Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker and Sutton Foster (as Bret’s girlfriend) also deliver great support when called upon, as do season guest stars like Will Forte, Todd Barry and Demetri Martin. In the end, however, it’s the two leads, and the witty banter that drives their relationship, that makes the show such a delight.
With the exception of a few episodes that never really hit their mark (namely the middle of the season, including “Bowie,” “Girlfriends” and “What Goes on Tour”), “Flight of the Conchords” is one of the most highly addictive half-hours of television you’ll ever experience. It combines everything you love about shows like “The Office,” “Arrested Development” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and then peppers it with a dash of musical comedy that you simply can’t find anywhere else. One can only hope that the current writers strike doesn’t result in a postponed second season, because while the fictional duo may be less popular than their own tribute band, Like of the Conchords, we prefer the real thing any day of the week.
Special Features: Imagine my surprise when I excitedly popped in both discs, only to discover that there was nothing on them aside from the originally aired 12 episodes. Sure, HBO has been a tightwad in the past about delivering quality (if any) bonus material, but the fact that they couldn’t even include the duo’s 2005 special, “One Night Stand,” is quite maddening. While I understand that the turnaround for this release was only a matter of months, and so things like commentaries simply weren’t possible, they still should have tried their darndest to give a little extra to the fans. I’m sorry, but a Spanish audio track just doesn’t cut it, no matter how funny it may be to listen to. The good news, of course, is that the two-disc set is only $20, so there’s really no reason not to buy it.