In 2007, two years before Fox’s Glee was credited for reviving the musical comedy, HBO was setting trends (again) by airing Flight of the Conchords, a musical comedy starring New Zealand comedians and musicians Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, a.k.a. Flight of the Conchords (the group). The duo and the series are both hilarious and one of a kind.
Perhaps because of the success of Glee, or perhaps because Clement had a prominent role in this summer’s Dinner for Schmucks (not to mention the growing cult status of Gentlemen Broncos, the 2009 film he also starred in), HBO has released all 22 episodes that make up the complete series of Flight of the Conchords. The collectors set also includes a never before released DVD of the duo’s “One Night Stand” HBO comedy special from 2005. Fans of the show that haven’t purchased the previously released pair of seasons can now get all of Flight of the Conchords in one fell swoop, while newcomers can discover one of the most enjoyable shows on TV from the past decade.
Clement and McKenzie, playing fictionalized (I think) versions of themselves, are struggling musicians trying to make it big in America. They live in a one bedroom apartment; have just one (crazed fan), Mel (Kristen Schaal); and a hapless manager, Murray (Rhys Darby), who hasn’t a clue on how to help break a band. Somehow the guys get by with small club gigs. Jemaine thinks he’s a ladies man, but he rarely scores any women. Bret, on the other hand, has women fawning over him, even though he doesn’t try and doesn’t seem all that interested. Like many a great comedy, the series is build around the everyday incidents of these characters rather than heavy plots.
Flight of the Conchords succeeds because Jemaine and Bret (the characters) are really just typical, blue collar guys trying to achieve the American dream. As viewers, it’s easy to identify with them through all of their struggles. That and they’re funny as hell. When you throw in their musical numbers, each show becomes unique in its own right.
The musical numbers are the highlight of each episode. Unlike Glee, which uses popular songs by other artists to great effect, the Conchords have original music in each episode, which include two, sometimes three songs. The musical numbers pay homage to a variety of genres, be they funk, folk, glam, rock or psychedelic 60’s rock. Having to come up with such an abundance of original material each week may have been a reason why Clement and McKenzie decided to end the show. After just two seasons, Clement and McKenzie opted not to make any more Flight of the Conchords episodes. Luckily the episodes are preserved on DVD and this collection.
As HBO repackaged their preexisting season one and two collections in this box set, there are no new bonus features for those of you who already bought those seasons separately. Sorry, folks. However, the “One Night Stand” DVD is definitely worthy of your time. In it, the Conchords perform on stage and you get to see different sides of the characters they’ve created. While only 30 minutes long, it’s funny from beginning to end.