The Complete Collection
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All photos © HBO
Reviewed by Jamey Codding
o, I’m not crying. It’s just been raining…on my face. But even if I was crying, could you really blame me? I mean, I’m reviewing “Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Collection,” but there are only two seasons in the set (along with a “One Night Stand” special; more on that later). Two seasons. That’s it. Hardly seems like a complete collection of anything, much less one of the most distinctively creative shows to ever hit the small screen. High praise, to be sure, but with its brilliant blend of quirky comedy and an insanely catchy “guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-folk” soundtrack, “Flight of the Conchords” has a style all its own. Well…had a style all its own, I suppose… Pardon? No, I already told you that I’m not crying. For your information, there’s an inflammation in my tear gland.
The good news, if that’s what you want to call it, is that “Flight of the Conchords” wasn’t canceled. Whereas you could fill a graveyard with the corpses of great shows that some bonehead network execs decided to prematurely yank off the air, New Zealanders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, whose fictional two-man band is the focus of the show, walked away from HBO and a growing legion of fans because they were overwhelmed by how much work went into the show’s second season. That may sound a little lame, but consider that in addition to writing 10 new episodes with co-creator James Bobin, Bret and Jemaine (who first teamed up in 1998 as a folk musical comedy duo by the same name as the show) also had to pen a slew of original songs for Season Two after burning through many of their previously written tunes, including favorites like “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenocerous,” “If You’re Into It” and “I’m Not Crying” (quoted a couple of times in the opening paragraph), to fill their debut season.
Unfortunately, it’s fairly obvious that the musical well was dry for the show’s sophomore run. While “Flight of the Conchords” evolves as a TV show in the second season, it loses a bit of its identity in the process, with a batch of songs that falls short of its predecessor. Call it the dreaded “second album syndrome,” if you will, but that doesn’t mean you should simply dismiss the show’s second season. In fact, there’s quite a bit to like about those 10 episodes, particularly the time spent developing secondary characters like Mel (Kristen Schaal), the band’s screwy lone fan who would love to graduate to groupie; Dave (Arj Barker), a local pawn shop owner who does his best to school the guys on the differences between New York and New Zealand; and, of course, Murray Hewitt (Rhys Darby), the band’s sad-sack manager who steals just about every scene he’s in. Whereas the music – or, more accurately, the music videos – is the main draw in the first season, the show’s stable of delightful characters are given more room to breathe in Season Two.
To be clear, however, there are plenty of excellent tunes in the second season – “Sugar Lumps,” “Carol Brown” and “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor,” to name a few. Bret and Jemaine simply hit more home runs as rookies with songs like “Business Time,” “Leggy Blonde,” “A Kiss is Not a Contract” and “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room).” Which, of course, leads one to wonder if the guys were in fact wise to decline a third season rather than testing the law of diminishing returns. Why not go out on top?
Sadly, that’s a small consolation for “Flight of the Conchords” fans who are picking up this “complete collection” set much sooner than they had ever anticipated. The inclusion of the aforementioned “One Night Stand” HBO comedy special from 2005 is a nice little bonus, but it does nothing to erase the “what could have been” questions. Sure, it was great while it lasted, but “Flight of the Conchords” was over too soon and now we’re left anxiously awaiting Bret and Jemaine’s next joint project (Jemaine has been cropping up in several movies, most recently “Dinner for Schmucks”). In the meantime…we’ll be strong and hang on to our memories. And for the last damn time, I’m not crying because the show left me this way. My eyes are just a little sweaty today.