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Review: Flight of the Conchords Series 2

Life is nothing if not a struggle for New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk digi-rock duo…

Jemaine and Bret: The Conchords

Jemaine and Bret: The Conchords

There is so little to hate about Jemaine and Bret, the two bandmates that make up Flight of the Conchords, that it almost hurts. Whether it be their general inability to strike up conversations with (normal) girls, or their total failure to get anyone apart from Mel (the band’s ‘fanbase’) to attend their gigs, something about the two New Zealanders makes them compelling viewing, despite the conspicuous absence of anything involving personal or professional progression.

The first series introduced us to the band, and allowed us to follow as they singularly failed to make any sort of headway on the American music scene. In that respect, then, the second series follows religiously in the same footsteps. As Jemaine tells Murray, the band’s injudicious manager, during the last episode of this collection, “It’s the story of two men who started at the bottom, who with a lot of hard work continued along the bottom, and then finished at the bottom.”

Unlike the first series, where the comedy duo’s finely tuned collection of songs (compiled through years of gigging around the globe) tended to overshadow the periods of dialogue in each episode, the second series sees a noticeable drop in the quality and quantity of musical offerings. There are still a few classics — ‘Sugarlumps’, ‘Hurt Feelings’, Carol Brown’ instantly spring to mind — and perhaps the greatest song about canine epilepsy (or is that ‘pepilepsy’?) ever penned, but there are equally a couple of offerings (‘Devil Woman’, ‘Fashion’) that fail to hit the high watermark of the first series.

Fortunately, then, the dialogue steps up to provide great laughs that ensure the programme should not be considered a one-season wonder, and demonstrate there is much more to the act than simply great comedy songs.

The second series opens with Murray (played by Rhys Darby), which is arguably fitting as he proves to be the main comic force throughout. Having left his job in the New Zealand Consulate at the end of season one to become a full-time band manager for the incredibly successful Crazy Dogggz (and the Conchords on the side), things soon go wrong (get used to that — it’s a reoccurring theme) and the familiar first series struggles of money and success return with force.

As a result there is initially a fear that things could get boring quickly, but as episodes pass by new avenues are explored (as Murray tells the band in one, “We have spent time in the colleagues realm, the time has come to explore things in the friendship realm”) that keep things fresh and enjoyable.

Murray might bring the band down, but he drives the show forward.

Murray might bring the band down, but he drives the show forward.

With a few great cameo performances (Arj Barker in particular is great as Dave, bastion of misguided advice), and Taiki Waitita (an old friend and former collegue of the band) guesting as director for a few episodes, there is nothing wrong with the execution or presentation. But it’s the three main characters’ success in finding dead-pan humour in the banality of their existence on which the show lives or dies — and this season the offbeat quips come funnier and more frequently than ever before.

If the first series was the culmination of years of graft on the comedy circuit, then the Grammy award its music won confirmed the perfectly honed nature of the Conchord’s act. But the second series demanded new songs, new stories and new ideas in a fraction of the time they had to think about the first, a task not everyone thought Jemaine and Bret (along with director and co-creator James Bobin) were up to. Whether the show will return for a third series is currently uncertain, but if the 22 episodes we have so far prove to be the sum total of the Conchord’s TV legacy, then the 10 episodes of season two will be revered just as highly as those of series one.

You can’t say that about too much television these days.


Verdict: *****

 Compelling, and rich.

Flight of the Conchords: ‘Hurt Feelings’

The second series of Flight of the Conchords is scheduled to begin on BBC Four later this month.

The first series is out on DVD now.

May 3, 2009 - Posted by | Reviews, Television | , ,

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