Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus Doidge wants to be the third member of Flight of the Conchords...
Flight of the Conchords is a comedy show about ‘New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo’, trying to get their first break in America. Brett (Brett McKenzie) and Jemaine (Jemaine Clement) live in their small apartment in New York City and with the help of their band manager, Murray (Rhys Darby), and the obsessive support of their one and only fan, Mel (Kristen Schaal), The Conchords try out all of the avenues and opportunities that New York might offer them.
Flight of the Conchords is a twelve episode HBO produced comedy show that appeared from nowhere on BBC Four in the UK in 2007. I’d not heard anything about these guys and initially thought it was going to be a sketch show, due to the give nothing away TV ads. Now, I usually get the slightest whiff of a sketch show and run the other way but I’m glad I didn’t, because not only is this not a sketch show, it turns out to be comedy gold. Before I saw the actual show, I caught the One Night Stand live show that aired as a build up to the series starting—well worth tracking down on Youtube. It’s a fine introduction to what the Conchords do very well—it’s different, it’s fresh and their personalities shine through immediately. Sadly though it’s not featured as an extra on this DVD—a glaring omission.
Anyway, that’s the background out of the way. The show itself, which is now out as a complete first season collection, is a must see for all fans of beautifully crafted comedy. Each half hour show is stacked with so many laughs and classic dialogue that I find it hard to believe anyone couldn’t fall in love with it and as an even bigger slice of genius, each show features some of the smartest comedy songs you’re ever going to have the joy of listening to. From pop to rap to sixties style French musak... each song is stacked with in-jokes and homage, all the while being comically sharp and clever.
At the centre of this are Brett and Jemaine—one of those classic duos that come along once in a while. They have the classic friends living together relationship, but there’s something fresh and original about it all at the same time. They really play on that world image of New Zealand and they’re not afraid to take a pop at themselves about it either. In fact my favourite episode of the entire run, and it’s hard to pick a favourite, is an episode called ’Drive By’, in which a local Indian fruit seller refuses to serve them because they are ‘Kiwis’. This leads them to learn how to throw someone the middle finger, or funnier still ‘the bird’ and racial slurs like ‘Hey New Zealanders, what you doing up there? Bungee jumping?’ Comedy gold.
All that said, despite Jemaine and Brett being fantastic, by the end of the first season they are overshadowed by the glory that is their band manager, Murray. There’s something about the inept and innocent approach of this character, as he tries his very best to make Flight of the Conchords the next big thing, that consistently puts a smile on my face. The sheer fact he's holding band meetings at his regular office job at the New Zealand Embassy, is so damn funny. The posters that backdrop his office, with slogans like ‘New Zealand. Like Lord of the Rings’ and ‘New Zealand. Don't expect too much—you will love it’ are regular sources of amusement.
The style of the show initially seems laid back. It really takes advantage of that full half-hour running time rather than the fast paced twenty-two minutes most American comedies have. Once you get settled in to the lo-fi, almost Napoleon Dynamite-esque approach to it all, you soon realise how layered and well constructed the offbeat comedy in this show really is. Re-watching the episodes again recently, made me realise just how much humour is woven into every line and how naturally the two leads, as well as the regular recurring characters, deliver to you with such ease.
Flight of the Conchords is presented in 16x9 widescreen. The colours were vibrant and in general, the picture was good if not a little washy in places. Obviously this is only a low budget TV show—never intended to compete with glossy ratings-grabbers such as Scrubs and Two and a Half Men in the visuals department. This is much more akin to TV shows like Extras or Curb Your Enthusiasm. That said, elements of the episodes look fantastic. The vast colour palette of New York City is captured and used to full effect in many of the location shoots. When the show wants to be colourful, whether it be music videos or a dream-like visit from David Bowie (not the David Bowie. but still genius), it looks great. On the less impressive side, the grain often sneaks in on the darker scenes and more so in the kooky music video effects for some of the songs.
Overall this is what it is and in many ways it’s part of the style. The picture is neither impressively good nor distractingly bad—it’s just a regular TV show on standard DVD.
Arriving with a Dolby 2.0 Surround track, this once again does all it needs to do in regards to presentation and all the songs still sound great. The dialogue is clear and all in all, this really didn’t demand much more than what it gives us.
Flight of the Conchcords has some great animated menus showing off The Conchords dancing to their theme tune, but unfortunately there are no actual features on here at all, which is a shame. Even if it was merely access to the all of the songs on a separate selection system, that would have been something, but it’s absolutely bare bones.
Getting its fair share of kudos from the establishment (after they won a Grammy for the best comedy album recently and having the show in the long list for this year’s Emmys), Flight of the Conchords is slowly on the climb stateside, but over here is still ripe for a whole new audience outside of the small, cult fan base that it‘s already gained.
I have a lot of love for Flight of the Conchords. The offbeat exploration of trying to get a band off the ground in the big wide world is a vast space in which to find comedy and this show brings so much more than just that.
Flight of the Conchords is layered, it has characters that are ridiculously likable, it’s got some fantastically enjoyable songs and it’s genuinely funny. Whether the Conchords are dealing with new band members, going on tour, being victims of racism, getting advice from David Bowie or trying to help Murray find love, it’s all an enjoyable ride. Every episode is a joy, packed with more little quirks and memorable moments than you’d expect and it’s one of the few comedy shows out there that has real charm and genuine re-watchability.
Frankly i can't wait for the second season which is reported to begin in Spring 2009. Highly recommended.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 29th October 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dobly Digital 2.0 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: James Bobin, Taika Cohen, Troy Miller
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal
Length: 360 minutes