TV Club? Present!
Here’s a fun(ish) fact: When Flight Of The Conchords’ first season wrapped, back in September, 2007, TV Club was still just a glimmer in The A.V. Club’s eye. Not that Bret, Jemaine, et al have been off our radar in the 17-month interim: You may have noticed a couple of interviews, an appearance on our best-of-2008 music list, and a subtle, unobtrusive banner ad or two here and there around the site. Needless to say, we’re glad to have the show back, and I’m super-geeked to be your guide through the second (and reportedly final) season of FOC.
It’s no secret that Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement struggled with the sophomore season of their surprise-hit show. And the reason it’s no secret is because they flat-out said in interviews they were having trouble penning new songs (the first season used mostly old material they had amassed over several years) and weren’t interested in pursuing another season after this because of those difficulties. Their fatigue is disheartening, sure, but understandable, considering the speed at which they rocketed from near-obscurity to cult favorites. It’s also, unfortunately, evident in this week’s less-than-transcendent season premiere.
Of course, a less-than-transcendent episode of Flight Of The Conchords is still pretty damn good, and there were a clutch of excellent moments in “A Good Opportunity,” which I’ll get to in a moment. But—somewhat predictably given the duo’s aforementioned writing struggles—tonight’s three songs were clunkers, for the most part. Starting things out with a Murray song (“Rejected”) was a misstep. (Sorry “Leggy Blonde” lovers, but I maintain that Rhys Darby’s contributions to the show are best left in the non-musical sphere.) While the sequence of Murray twirling on a rooftop singing the operatic ballad was amusing—check out that crane shot!—the song itself was pretty one-note, nearly devoid of any actual jokes. The “Femident” jingle and the “Angels In The Clouds (Doin’ It)” sequences were a little better, but the two songs were a little too musically similar for my liking.
There may not have been anything approaching “Business Time” or “Bowie” moments tonight, but the goings-on in between the musical sequences were top-notch Conchords comedy. The plot was a little more robust than usual, due to the necessary reset that had to occur following last season’s Crazy Dogggz shake-up. After rocketing to the top of the charts with “Doggy Bounce”—then a little lower, then a still little lower down the charts with “Doggy Dance” and “In The Pound”—the bongo-keytar duo introduced in last season’s finale continues to dominate Murray’s attention and help fill his plush new office with gold records and weird statues from Tori Amos. Slightly poorer and down one shoe (but up one cushion stolen from their library gig!), Bret and Jemaine fire their manager and strike out on their own, which turns out to be easier than easy, with them quickly landing a gig to write a commercial jingle for Femident ladies’ toothpaste. However, fate and a Polish lawyer soon bring the three back together. Murray is quickly stripped of his success when it turns out a Polish cover of “Doggy Bounce” predates the original by 13 years, and Bret and Jemaine find it difficult to get paid for their jingle work without work permits or green cards. After a quick stint living in his car, Murray finagles his consulate job back—thanks to the fact no one realized he left—as well as his FOC management position, thanks to his brilliant plan to run away and the gift of a size 9 right-foot shoe he brought for Bret. And just like that, all is back to normal in the Conchordiverse.
As usual, there was a ton of deadpan quotable moments tonight, headed up by Bret and Jemaine’s struggles to pinpoint exactly what it is that ladies like. (Weaving? No, that’s more of a man’s game, as Bret comes from a long line of male weavers. Women’s rights? Also more of a man thing: Jemaine’s dad supported women’s rights, but didn’t allow his mom to be an activist.) A guest-starring Greg Proops also got in a few great moments as the smarmy talent agent who taps the boys to write the Femident jingle (“I think you guys are terrific, I particularly like one of you”; “What is this, Lord Of The Rings? We don’t have all day”). We also got a good dose of the supporting cast, particularly Dave, who takes the boys to the pool to find out what women like (alas, they’re all out “doing Brazillians”) and gives them a lesson in double-down negotiating, because Dave means “deal” in Latino. And of course, Mel stole the show with her emphatic desire to start a Crazy Dogggz merch-fire. (“Why did you come if you didn’t want to light a fire?” is my new personal mantra.)
The success of tonight’s show really depends whether you show up for the tunes or the jokes. When they’re good, the Conchords’ songs can equal or surpass the show’s dialogue in the deadpan silliness department. Tonight’s songs just didn’t bring the laughs, though, in form or content, making them seem more like breaks in the action than inspired asides. Hopefully we’ll see a better balance struck in the coming weeks.
• Never trust anyone with an AOL e-mail address.
• Bret’s man-made woven trousers: best throwaway gag of the night?
• Anyone got a good Polish lawyer joke?
• “Stuff you!”=The ultimate insult.
• Jemaine: “Why did I get double-stuffed?”
• Was that a woman’s shoe that Murray brought Bret?
• That Doug, always hogging the conversation.
• Has "Rock The Party" been replaced? I couldn't catch the new song's lyrics, but it sounds like the Conchords have a new go-to party-starting jam.
• In case you did like tonight’s songs, be advised that iTunes will be offering new Conchords tunes for download the day after the episode airs. Maybe they’ll have the original, 18-minute-long cut of “Femident.”