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The Dominion Post Article - May 06, 2009

by nikki78 » Tue May 05, 2009 5:32 pm

The Plight of the Conchords

I finished watching season two of Flight of the Conchords the other week. It looks like they've wrapped it up - all the talk had been that the show would not continue on for too long and that two seasons would be it.


The group Flight of the Conchords is very talented, it would be disingenuous to say otherwise and they have had success overseas too - to many that is the important reason to like them!

Jemaine Clement has moved in to some movie acting roles. Bret McKenzie was in The Black Seeds, he made a pretty cool solo album under the name Video Kid and he turned a bit-part in The Lord of the Rings in to a cult-hit.

So both of the Conchords are talented and have other avenues to head in, head towards or head back to. And of course they can carry on touring and recording as the band Flight of the Conchords without having to have the TV show Flight of the Conchords.

But I am pleased it looks like there'll be no more television episodes because the joke really was wearing thin.

At times I thought season two had really stepped up a gear, the comedy seemed sharper and certainly it played to the strengths by utilising Arj Barker and Kristen Schaal - and of course Rhys Darby as "Murray".

It was nice to see the supporting characters and bit-parts receive lines in songs and help to move the basic premise on, but at times it really felt like this was also to cover for some sub-standard material; particularly the songs.

Musical comedy is tough. What is funny today won't be funny for long. Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie was probably side-splitting 40 years ago (I laughed when I first heard it about 20 years ago) but I doubt I could make it past the second chorus these days (could you?) And how does a talented song parodist like "Weird Al" Yankovic fare these days when the likes of Eminem is already sending himself - and the wider genre - up with his latest releases.

Every album of Em's features that comical first single and the too-pleased-with-itself video to go with it...it must be hard making it in the world of musical comedy.

And that is why I think FOTC has done so well; they have made it. And New Zealanders seem to also love the damn the man attitude that Clement and McKenzie had when TVNZ rejected them; when they built their name through hard slog and dedication to the cause and concept.

The truth is TVNZ rejecting them - and/or missing the window - was the best thing that happened to Flight of the Conchords/Flight of the Conchords.

The show, if produced locally, would have been a turkey. Not through the fault of McKenzie and Clement but through our own inabilities/insecurities to really give homegrown stuff the tick until it's seen to be doing well (or at least recognised) on some version of the world stage - and because TVNZ makes generally terrible television; especially locally produced comedy.

Arj Barker and Kristen Schaal are gold for the FOTC show. And there were some great cameos from comedians like Todd Barry too. What would we have here, Dai Henwood being "whacky" and an interchangeable local female comedian referring to her genetalia a lot?

There was one episode in season two of Flight of the Conchords where I didn't laugh at all. Not a chuckle, not a hint of a smile - and check out my profile pic, I like a good laugh! - and it was then that I was pleased to see that hopefully the Conchord brand would be saddling up and heading out on the ole dusty trail away from TV-land.

I liked the show. Mostly. Don't get me wrong. But it started to feel like the same joke over and over - and I know that the concept suggested that in many ways, as an overriding conceit, but it really started to seem thin-wallpaper thin. Yeah, that thin. And the songs. I come back to the songs. They didn't cut it. They weren't as good. The parodies were aimless and groundless, the hooks weren't there; it felt like the tunes were being written by committee - and so much of season one was based around songs that were close to a decade old.

They wrote the scenes to suit the songs, this time around it seemed like songs were being written to fit the scenes. But that's not actually the case, not always, anyway. Because, Conchords fans, if they go back to the Folk The World CD (released long before The Distant Future (EP) and the self-titled full length album) will spot a track called Petrov, Yelyena And Me. It's there from gigs recorded in 2002; but it's also there - in a version - on the final episode of season two of the TV show.

Anyway, mostly, it seemed like the songs were not as strong in season two. And whilst Flight Of The Conchords and Flight Of The Conchords was always as much about the comedy as the music you can't really have musical-comedy without good songs....unless you want to become Mrs Peacock.

My favourite Flight Of The Conchords-related product was the BBC Radio Series on CD. Brilliant. Still rate that higher than the TV show. And I still think the duo, in the live format, in the live forum, is better than listening to studio songs (which are not that funny after a couple of listens). I found the self-titled album rather boring.

So, I wonder what they'll do next. Will they keep going without making TV?

And what do you think about Flight Of The Conchords? Best New Zealand comedy since Fred Dagg and Billy T. James? Not even close? Miles ahead? Or a second-rate Mrs Peacock?

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by hellomyfriend » Tue May 05, 2009 6:05 pm

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