After a highly successful first season, the pair behind Flight of the Conchords returned for a second helping with ten more episodes in January of 2009. With strong critical and fan acclaim, the show has become another great success for HBO, although with this “Complete Collection” release coming a year after the second season originally saw its release on DVD, it’s sadly evident that we will not be receiving a third season of this show. Thankfully for those who haven’t seen the series they can pick it up in one hilarious box set, complete with an exclusive “One Night Stand” DVD that until now had never seen the light of (DVD) day.
Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie — a.k.a. Flight of the Conchords — moved to New York in the hopes of forging a successful music career. Unfortunately, despite their status as “New Zealand’s 4th Most Popular Folk Parody Duo,” fame and notoriety continue to elude them. Helping them navigate the strange world of the Big Apple are Murray, their devoted manager and New Zealand’s Cultural Attache; Mel, their obsessed (and only) fan; and Dave, a local pawn shop owner and de facto counsel for how to assimilate in America. Watch as Bret and Jemaine contend with unrequited love, inept criminals, prostitution, and epileptic dogs, breaking into song as they clumsily try to break into the New York scene. In the never-before-released Flight of the Conchords: One Night Stand, Bret and Jemaine make their HBO debut performing in front of a live audience in 2005.
Flight of the Conchords was one of the big breakout hits during its first season and despite hearing endlessly good things about it, I never saw the first season. The second season felt a bit awkward at first, not knowing how they got where they were, but it ultimately didn’t matter; within minutes I was adapted to the shows humor style and laughing my head off at the scenarios and characters in general for this show. Without a doubt it’s one of the more original things to creep across television and feels almost as fresh as something Ricky Gervais popped out (although considering he’s only done two shows, it’s kind of hard to compliment it that much, I suppose).
While the series is certainly funny within the confines of the characters, it’s the musical pieces that really drive this series home. Jermaine and Bret act nothing like themselves once they start going into their songs and as a result the series takes on a completely different air about it. The music is really what turns this series into a lighthearted and enjoyable little frolic into something genuinely entertaining and hilarious. Some of the songs are more understated than others, but such early performances as the sugar lumps, the mid-season performance of the men on the dance floor and the near season finale bit with Bret being more daring really stand out as some of the most brilliant pieces of the show, as well as just truly hilarious songs in of themselves.
So does the series work all the time? Not really. Although I found myself barreling through the set, it quickly became evident that the series works best in bursts (i.e., one episode a week definitely works to its advantage). For once thing the characters themselves, as hilarious as they are sometimes, just aren’t enjoyable for long stretches at a time. Their manager, Murray (Rhys Darby), quickly grates on ones nerves and even the main characters themselves can get old after awhile. Granted the show probably wasn’t made to be watched in weekend binges, but I found myself getting slightly agitated over the storylines and characters midway into the set. And these are only twenty some minute episodes…of which there are only ten. So while it’s definitely a fresh and entertaining show to be sure, it is best taken (for me, at least) in small doses.
I originally wrote the previous blocks of text about the second season prior to seeing the first, but now that I’ve seen the entire series I have to say…my opinions haven’t changed at all. The first season definitely had the same type of mojo about it that worked best in short viewings and after the first four episodes I opted to pace it out a bit more, which definitely helped the rest of the season go down smoother. I was planning to go into this review with only a few repeated blocks of text but found myself keeping the majority of it simply because I’ve nothing else to say about this series that I didn’t encompass with the second season already. The second season definitely smoothed out the edges of the show a bit better, but all in all it’s a show that follows its own formula with little deviation.
Overall Flight of the Conchords is definitely a delight, but the show isn’t without its issues. The series brings the cast into some delightfully awkward and funny situations (usually fueled by Kristen Schaal’s sometimes scary, always creepy Mel) and boasts a solid number of guest stars throughout the seasons as well. It’s definitely a Recommended series, but it may be best to go into it with lowered expectations as it is a very indie style series and isn’t quite as hilarious as the previews and reviews would lead you to believe (but that’s not a giant surprise, is it?). Still, even a year after watching the second season I find myself on YouTube watching “Sugar Lumps” simply because it makes me laugh my head off every time I even start to think about it.
Arriving in a package that looks like a combination of Juno and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Flight of the Conchords – The Complete Collection boasts a cardboard slipcase housing the crystal clear o-ring Amaray cases that housed the first seasons originally…in fact these are the exact same releases as before, so if you own them then the only thing you’ll be interested in is the new bonus disc which is in a single-disk thinpak case. Inside the dual disc, clear plastic Amaray cases is a double sided inserts that denotes the episodes found on each disc as well as the extras that accompany the discs in the set.
Video is what you’ve come to expect from modern shows and it looks fine for what it is; some compression and edge enhancement is visible in certain cases, but for the most part it looks good. What is a mixed bag, however, is the audio track. While the DD5.1 mix for season two features crystal clear dialogue, whenever the musical numbers kick in the track becomes deftly quiet. I have to turn the sound up on the speakers just to really hear the lyrics and then I’m blasted out again once the musical bit ends. It’s not so bad on a full surround system where the change isn’t as noticeable, but on a PC I found it to be quite disorienting. This audio issue only applies to the second season, however; the first and the special are in DD2.0 which are much louder and clearer, although without the obvious channel separation that the second season has.
The same extras are ported over for the two season releases (which means nothing but episode previews for the first season), but sadly they’re all located on the second season release:
On Air Documentary Feature (25:01)
Deleted Scenes (25:03)
Dave’s Pawn Shop Commercials (3:05)
New Zealand Consulate Meeting with Murray & Greg (3:34)
Easter Egg (1:26)
All of the extras are pretty by-the-numbers and the lack of commentary tracks is pretty depressing. The outtakes seem to be focused around Jermaine Clement’s unique laugh, as it is mostly him messing up for the majority of it. The Easter Egg is the full video shown of the artists in the season premiere. There is the thinpak disc in the box set, a “One Night Stand” which is Bret and Jemaine making their HBO debut in front of a live audience in 2005, which his incredibly entertaining in its own right, but I wish they would’ve put some more extras for the season (notably the first season) on the disc simply because we’ll likely never see this series get another release anytime soon (if ever).
Overall a Recommended box set for those who have yet to pick up the first two seasons on DVD. If you already own those, however, then you may not want to even bother—the 2005 special is definitely entertaining, but it’s nothing that has any kind of replay value to it like the rest of the series.
Flight of the Conchords – The Complete Collection arrives on DVD on August 24th.