HBO // 2009 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // August 4th, 2009
Born to folk.
"Singing at a karaoke bar doesn't count as a gig. You don't get paid or anything, it's just singing."
When we last saw Jermaine (Jermaine Clement, Eagle vs. Shark) and Bret (Bret McKenzie, Futile Attraction), they were struggling to make enough money to pay the rent. The quirky folk duo simply couldn't book a decent gig due to the combined incompetence of themselves and their manager Murray (Rhys Darby, The Boat That Rocked). They were constantly being stalked by an incredibly obnoxious fan named Mel (Kristen Schaal, The Daily Show). What has changed since the conclusion of the first season of Flight of the Conchords? Absolutely nothing.
The 10 second-season episodes are spread across two discs:
* A Good Opportunity
* A New Cup
* Tough Brets
* Murray Takes It To The Next Level
* Unnatural Love
* Love is a Weapon of Choice
* Prime Minister
* New Zealand Town
If there is a disappointing element to the second season, it is that it simply offers more of the same. If you liked the first season (which I certainly did), odds are reasonably strong that you will like this season, but it's frustrating to note that the show doesn't seem to have evolved in any way. It's clear that the trio of Clement, McKenzie, and writer/director James Bobin (Da Ali G Show) are attempting to recapture the considerable success of the first season by making the second season hit a lot of similar beats without ever straying from the tried-and-true path. The result is a pleasant if somewhat less-than-ambitious sophomore outing for "New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo."
To be sure, Clement and McKenzie are two guys I enjoy hanging out with. Their comic timing together is nothing short of impeccable, and their deadpan sense of humor rarely fails to hit the mark. In fact, the show is strongest when it's in low-key mode. The little laughs scattered throughout work quite well, but when the humor becomes a bit broader on occasion the show is prone to stumble (I'm thinking of the should-have-been-funnier musical number "Sugar Lumps," a wheezy tribute to a certain part of the male anatomy).
The show's pleasures are subtle. It's the look of desperate fascination on Kristen Schaal's face whenever one of the two men takes a moment to actually speak to her. It's the formal quirks of the band meetings, such as Murray's insistence on making sure that there is a roll call despite the fact that only three people are present. It's the contrast between the inventively fanciful numbers the duo performs spontaneously and the incredibly flat tunes they offer during their concert performances ("Eminem is no good/Snoop Dogg is no good/Ludacris is no good/all those rappers are no good..."). It's the hilariously amateurish attempts at becoming successful entrepreneurs (Bret's super-straws, Jermaine's attempts to prostitute himself, and Bret's decision to start a gang are particularly amusing examples).
These things are fun and they made me smile, just like they did when I saw them in the first season. It's just so darn frustrating that there is almost nothing here that isn't slightly overshadowed by the memories of what came before. There is no episode as intensely funny as the first season's best installments; no song as hilariously memorable as first-season classics like "Robots" or "Albi the Racist Dragon." Looking down the list of tunes employed during the first season, I can remember quite a few of them very distinctly. Very few of this season's tunes actually managed to stick with me, despite the fact that I enjoyed them while I was watching them. I suppose this review sounds rather negative considering that I actually liked the season, but it's hard to talk about much of anything here without concluding, "It's good, but a little less good than you might hope."
The series is blessed with a stellar transfer that gets the job done as professionally as possible. The level of detail is about as respectable as one can hope for with a standard-def disc, though I did notice some rather soft imagery from time to time. Blacks are nice and deep, flesh tones are accurate...though I will admit, considering the many subtle visual gags lingering in the background of many scenes, I do wish that Blu-ray were an option. Audio is mostly solid, though I have one noteworthy complaint. During some of the musical numbers (particularly the bass-heavy rap numbers), the bass is simply too aggressive. It threatens to completely overwhelm the vocals at times, and these sequences will probably cause most viewers to adjust the volume a bit. Otherwise, it's a clean and energetic track.
The one definite advantage this set has over the first season set is batch of supplemental material. While the previous release was completely bare-bones, this time you get a few goodies. The best of these is "Flight of the Conchords: An On-Air Documentary" (25 minutes), which features substantial interviews with the cast and crew about the creation of the show. Everything else is lightweight fun: 25 minutes of amusing deleted scenes, 7 minutes of outtakes, 3 minutes of hilarious commercials for Dave's Pawn Shop and 3 minutes of Murray's New Zealand Consulate meetings. While this is a rather lightweight package in comparison to most modern television releases, it's certainly good to actually have some supplements this time around. Why is HBO so stingy when it comes to such things?
Despite my complaints and disappointments, Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season deserves a rental at the very least. Check it out, and here's hoping that if there is a third season (something still rather uncertain as of the writing of this review) the show will return to top form.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes