Sorry, just trying to make this blog a little more cool. Although, “Whatever” is a pretty apt description for tonight’s episode. “Lazy” might be a little better though. Don’t get me wrong, what did work tonight worked quite well… there just wasn’t that much of it.
Take the musical number, “Fashion Is Danger.” That’s right, number, singular. Granted, this is not the first time a Conchords episode has only featured one song, and I’m certainly not suggesting that they need to fill a certain quota each week, jamming songs in unnecessarily. But… eh. “Fashion” was fun, but it was based more on the visuals—the guys and their Flock Of Seagulls hair and Mel in shoulder pads—than on any sort of lyrical brilliance.
And while the guys’ newfound dependence on hair-care products, stemming from a desire to be more cool, resulted in some hilarious sight gags and one-liners (“Move over refrigerators, here’s what’s cool!”), the plot itself felt more like a short-form sketch-comedy number stretched out over the length of an episode. Same goes for the B (A?) plot, Murray and Prime Minister Brian’s “New Zealand Town” project, aided by a bored-seeming Lucy Lawless and Gary the Sheep. It was a good basis for gags, but it didn’t really have any momentum, forcing a shoehorned “climax” where the guys reluctantly play, sans-gel, at the opening of New Zealand Town, just to discover they’re as uncool as they ever were. Yes, it’s all funny, but was any of it as delightfully unexpected as, for example, what went down at the benefit for epileptic dogs a couple episodes back? Or sneaky Keitha robbing the guys’ flat?
Of course, this all raises the question: How ambitious does Flight Of The Conchords need to be? The show is basically a conduit for silly non-sequiturs and tongue-in-cheek awkwardness; should we really be complaining about flimsy plotting? Probably not, but the past three episodes have shown that FOTC is certainly capable of going beyond one-note gags (The hair gel is like a drug! Get it??) in its pursuit of man-child antics. We expect great one-liners and bizarre sight gags at this point; does an episode succeed because it has a higher concentration of those elements, or because it has a little something extra, a story that viewers can actually get invested in beyond wondering where the next chuckle is coming from? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the past three episodes—which have been my, and I think many of your, far-and-away favorites of the season—have all dealt with Bret and Jemaine’s love lives, such as they are. Those types of stories are usually built around the characters, and the humor stems from the boys’ weird quirks and insecurities, rather than a “wacky” setup.
Again, none of this is to say that “New Zealand Town” wasn’t a funny episode. I personally don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad Flight Of The Conchords episode, as evidenced by the generally high grades the show gets here. FOTC has a shtick that works and it sticks to it; if you like that sort of humor, chances are good you’re never going to actively dislike an episode. Every week, there are comments here along the lines of, “I can’t believe you didn’t mention [insert hilarious gag here]! That was the best moment of the night!” I could probably literally just list the amusing lines from each episode here every week and come in at around the same word count. But is it enough for Flight Of The Conchords to just turn in a bunch of funny lines and a silly song or two each week? Well, generally, yes, yes it is; but we all know it can be better.
• This episode also felt pretty short, did it not? By my TiVodometer, it clocked in around the 25-minute mark. There was plenty of room for another song, plus one of those closing-credits sequences that seemed to disappear after the first two episodes.
• I watched tonight’s episode with a friend who generally doesn’t watch FOTC, or any TV, and she managed to sum up tonight’s episode better than I ever could: “Do you think this episode is about Pete Wentz?”
• So is Prime Minister Brian around for the rest of the season? How do we feel about that? I liked him last week, but his naiveté felt a little more grating this week.
• Nice shout-out to Jemaine (the real one’s) Maori heritage, though it took me a few seconds to realize they weren’t saying “A merry village.” Dave was right, they really are just making that language up as they go along.
• Did Lucy Lawless really contribute anything to this episode beyond a general nonplussed air and reminding us that there are other celebrities from New Zealand? Get back to the base ship, Number Three, Battlestar Galactica needs you.