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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Flight Of The Conchords: "The Tough Brets"

Illustration for article titled Flight Of The Conchords: "The Tough Brets"
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Illustration for article titled Flight Of The Conchords: "The Tough Brets"

You know, after getting that cushion stolen a couple weeks back, and now with this week’s noise complaints, it has to be asked: Why does the Public Library keep inviting Flight Of The Conchords to play there? They clearly haven’t mastered the art of making sound without having people hear them. Not to mention the fact that Bret nearly started a rap war this week with his freestyle, “[Insert successful rapper] is not very good!”

Since, as Dave points out, “Here in the United States, rivalries between rappers usually end in death… or worse,” Bret’s compelled to form a gang of his own for protection in tonight’s episode. However, The Tough Brets only manage to mildly inconvenience Jemaine and give a bratty pre-teen a bruised shin before unceremoniously “disbandoning.” (Well, except Murray—or is it Mur Ray?—who bravely soldiers on alone.) Meanwhile, Murray and Jemaine are embroiled in their own rivalry, with a group of douchey Australian bros headed up by Ambassador Charles Widmore. With so much gang activity—not to mention the fact that Conchords has somehow managed to go this long without doing a Broadway-style number—a West Side Story send-up was pretty much a given. And while the “Stay Cool, Brett” dance routine was one of the highlights of the season thus far (who knew Murray had those kind of moves?), I kind of wish the song itself hadn’t been hewn quite so close to its source material.

Last week I mentioned that “Sugar Lumps” and “You Don’t Have To Be A Prostitute” were pretty obvious in their inspiration as well, as opposed to last season’s songs, which were clearly influenced by specific musical styles without being straight-up song parodies. It’s starting to become apparent that, while the series’ first season mostly integrated older songs from the duo’s BBC series and stage routine, this season, the songs are being written in service of the plots, which might be why we’re seeing so many parodies as opposed to fully original numbers. And while I enjoyed both of last week’s songs immensely, “Stay Cool, Brett” fell flat. Why try to improve on lyrics like, “Got a rocket in your pocket, keep coolly cool boy,” anyway? Those lines sound positively Conchord-esque, and are (unintentionally) funnier than this song was. But then again… there was the dancing.

Far better was the “I’ve Got Hurt Feelings” rap number and its melancholy, full-cast reprise. This one felt like a truly original Conchords number, and an extremely catchy one at that. (I already caught myself humming it while doing chores today.) I think “Hurt Feelings” succeeds for the same reason “Hiphopapotamus v Rhymenocerous” does: The rap format allows for a higher concentration of silly, tossed-off lyrics (“The day after my birthday is not my birthday mum!”), and that many funnies combined with a catchy chorus is a winner in my book.

Also a winner in my book: Mel’s paintings. Also, Mel’s delivery of the line, “You should hang it on you wall so you can see how strong and powerful you are!” Kristin Schall’s ability to make creepiness cute cannot be overstated. Nor can Dave’s increasingly hilarious contributions this season: His weaponized/utensilized gloves, his “can attack!” on Jemaine, and especially his story of the rapper who chopped a guy’s whole body off, leaving only the dick behind, were all high points in an episode that had many of them. While I’m delighted that the roles of the supporting cast have been beefed up this season (even Greg and Doug are getting more screen time), when combined with the somewhat lazy nature of the parody-heavy songs we’ve seen, it makes me wonder if we’re witnessing a bit of fatigue on Bret and Jemaine’s part. Or maybe I’m just looking too much into a natural second-season growth period. At any rate, as long as we keep getting spectacularly silly moments like Bret hiding in the ceiling because he was afraid Missy Eliot was coming to chop his body off, I’m happy.

Grade: B+

Stray observations:

• The Conchords have a sorta-rivalry with the only other New Zealand rapper, Steve (“Did Steve tell you that perchance? Steeeeve…”), who’s actually a “lovely guy.”

• Mr. Lee hiding in the cupboard was probably my favorite moment of the night. And Mr. Lee’s contribution to “Stay Cool, Bret.” Mr. Lee, where have you been all my life?

• If anyone can tell me where to get Bret’s “Rap Dancin” shirt, I’ll let you join my gang, “The Ironically Shirted Genevieves.”

•  If HBO’s smart, they’ll start selling poster reproductions of Mel’s painting ASAP. I have a big blank space above my mantle that’s just screaming for it.

• I’ve run out of the screener episodes HBO sent me, so starting next week I’ll be watching in real time, which means these posts will be going up later. Try to contain disappointment.