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Flight Of The Conchords: "The New Cup"

Illustration for article titled Flight Of The Conchords: "The New Cup"
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Illustration for article titled Flight Of The Conchords: "The New Cup"

After getting off to a somewhat shaky start with last week’s season premiere, Flight Of The Conchords seems to be settling back into its groove this week, with a couple of memorable songs to match a memorable plot. Of course, the reason the plot was so memorable might be because you remember it from last season, when it was called “Bret Gives Up The Dream.”

Okay, so tonight’s story was a bit of a rehash. And yeah, “Sugar Lumps” bears a distinct resemblance to “Boom,” from the same episode. Yet I’m willing to forgive a lapse in originality for two reasons: One, money issues are going to be an ongoing problem for a band of the Conchords’ stature, so it makes sense that they’re going to have to keep coming up with creative ways to keep from pawning their dad and mom guitars, be it human-bilboarding or male prostitution; two, the Fergie-aping “Sugar Lumps” kicked the ass of the Black Eyed Peas-aping “Boom.” (Which I consider one of the better songs of season one.)

Like “Bret Gives Up The Dream,” “The New Cup” begins with Bret and Jemaine strapped for cash, this time as a result of Bret’s reckless spending in pursuit of a new cup. (Though I understand his desire to escape the tyranny of Jemaine’s “cup roster,” $2.79 seems awfully steep for a cup. Bret clearly buys his nifty animal T-shirts at the Salvation Army, why can’t he get a 50-cent mug while he’s there?) When their phone, gas, and electricity checks bounce, Bret’s forced to pawn his guitar to fund an ill-conceived Super Straw venture. Murray, meanwhile, tries to help out by answering an “Internet letter” from a nice gentleman from Nigeria with a business proposition. Mel offers the guys a non-degrading way to earn money—giving her a massage—but ends up giving Jemaine an idea for a better, degrading way to earn money: become a gigolo. Bret gives it a go as well, but despite a surprising aptitude for pimping, he can’t bring himself to offer anything more than hugs until he gets more confident. Jemaine decides to go it alone, following Eugene’s advice—from the totally normal book, How To Get It Done—to work the airport hotels. When Nigel the Nigerian comes through with Murray’s money—a nice twist on a seemingly obvious subplot—Bret sets out to tell Jemaine he doesn’t have to put on the red light. After a musical interlude called “Roxanne”—shit, I mean “You Don’t Have To Be A Prostitute Jemaine,” Bret finds him just in time to keep him from getting laid, but not soon enough to keep them both for getting busted for solicitation… um, by the cops he himself called.

It seems silly to critique FOC for imitating other artists, since musical homage is kind of the name of the game. But while the Conchords usually use these reference points as a foundation on which to build an original number, both of tonight’s songs came dangerously close to straight-up parody. I’m not complaining, exactly, because I thought both of tonight’s songs were great, and huge improvements on last week’s more original but less inspired numbers. I just wish “Sugar Lumps” hadn’t gotten that infernal “My Humps” stuck in my head again. But it was worth it to see those sweet dance moves and Jemaine’s pole-dancing skills.

Tonight’s episode also had some great non-verbal moments: Mel trying to dance to the bass-only rendition of “Robots,” Mel trying to establish contact during Bret’s air massage, the quick cut to both of the guys performing sans guitars, and the look on Murray’s face as he saw his picture accompanying his no-star review for that show. Tonight’s episode may not have been as quotable as last week’s (though “Just hugs until I get more confident” is a T-shirt waiting to happen), but it had a bunch of those subtle moments that makes this show’s humor so unique. I far prefer those moments to broader jabs at satire, such as Bret’s assertion that he finds prostitution degrading while wearing a giant “con-dom” suit. (Though it did pay off later when Bret told the cops who busted them for solicitation that he was “just the guy who wears the big condom.”) We don’t need any on-the-nose social commentary here, guys; just stick to the silly, you jailhouse turkeys!

Grade: A- (or 90 stars out of 100)

Stray observations:

• Nice “Prince Of Parties” callback in “Sugar Lumps.” And the soup-slurping. Ah hell, I just really liked that whole song.

• It was nice to see some supporting characters getting in on the musical action tonight: Dave’s rapping and Eugene’s steel drumming can’t quite match Bret and Jemaine’s skills, but it’s always good to see more of them. When’s Mel gonna get a solo?

• What did Jemaine pull out of his bag and set on the pillow in the hotel room? I couldn’t make it out. This seems like as good excuse as any to finally buy that high-def I’ve been eyeing…

• “Out of the hundreds of people who use the Internet, only I was willing to help him!”