Monday, March 02, 2009

Flight of the Conchords, "Prime Minister": It is a country. Yes, it is.

Spoilers for last night's "Flight of the Conchords" coming up just as soon as I load up my briefcase with cheeses...
"How's the environment going? Well, can we clean it up a bit? Well, I don't know. Just get some of your cousins together and clean it up a bit." -Brian (prime minister of New Zealand)
At this point, I think we have to consider "Unnatural Love" to be the anomaly of season two as the only episode where the show was firing on all thrusters musically and comedically. But if the two songs in "Prime Minister" (not counting the guys' wretched "Scarborough Fair" cover) were forgettable, this was a really funny half-hour, and if forced to choose between a memorable song or good jokes, I'll choose the latter.

After loading up on every negative Aussie stereotype with "Unnatural Love," "Prime Minister" gets back to the self-deprecating humor about New Zealand, where the prime minister (played by veteran Kiwi actor Brian Sergent) turns out to be just as ineffectual and clueless as Murray. He lugs around his own suitcase (not even one with wheels!), has no security detail, believes in The Matrix (leading to the hilarious deja vu/glitch/multiple Elton Johns joke at the episode's end) and apparently is leader of a country with only one gun. Very silly, very laid-back, and very "Conchords."

Jemaine's creepy romance with Mary Lynn Rajskub as an obsessive Art Garfunkel fan was a bit more predictable, but was buoyed by Mel's involvement -- when Mel calls another woman crazy, you listen -- by the cameo by the actual Art Garfunkel at the end, and then by the outtake over the closing credits with Bret (now dressed as the '80s Paul Simon) working with a group of backup singers who were either Ladysmith Black Mambazo themselves or (in keeping with the story's theme) a troupe of Ladysmith Black Mambazo impersonators. I wish Patton Oswalt had gotten more to do as the lead Elton John impersonator, but you can't have everything.

Even if the music hasn't been up to snuff (and the lyrics of Bret's karaoke song were funny, even if the song itself was forgettable), I'm disappointed that there are only three episodes left in this abbreviated 10-episode season. Maybe I'll have to plan a trip to New Zealand to get over it. According to Murray's latest poster, it's only 18 hours away.

What did everybody else think?

26 comments:

Myles said...

This episode for me raised the question: would HBO, or the Conchords, consider a third season wherein some episodes didn't include music at all? The show's comedy is clearly capable of sustaining it, and if the musical interludes came along only occasionally perhaps they might a) be better and b) be more memorable by their scarcity.

Because, to be honest, I would have far rather they cut the songs from this one and give us more Oswalt and the rest of the storylines.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Myles, I asked the guys and James Bobin that exact question when I interviewed them earlier this season.

Myles said...

Myles, I asked the guys and James Bobin that exact question when I interviewed them earlier this season.

Apparently, I abandoned that interview for being too incomprehensible even in written transcript form and never got to that question. Whoops, my bad.

They don't particularly answer it, though they clearly are open to changing the formula around. Makes me more optimistic about the show not only returning for a third season (which for some reason was something I had written off), but perhaps even returning under a normal cable schedule as opposed to the ridiculous break between the first and second seasons (although that was clearly due to both the writing process and the writers' strike).

Steve B said...

Comedically, this was one of their funniest episodes. The New Zealand Prime Minister was absolutely fabulous. I do wish they would have spent a little more time with him and Dave together. It seemed like an unlikely friendship was struck with their discussion of the Matrix. I would have loved to be on a cultural tour led by Dave, protected by Bret, and seen through the eyes of the Prime Minister.

I could have done without the trip to the White House, although the joke about the business cards may have made it worth it.

But I agree with Myles, perhaps the third season could cut down on the songs. Maybe instead of having 2 per episode, they cut back to one or even zero from time to time. The show is funny enough on its own.

How priceless was Murray's face when he found out his apology was accepted?

Cory said...

I think there is room for some middle ground. I thought some of the music in the show that didn't involve a whole big production was funny as well. For example, Jermaine and Bret practicing their epileptic dog songs, and Jermaine writing his Yoko song about Coco.

belinda said...

I didn't find this episode to be enjoyable at all. The humour seemed very strained, very "we're trying to be funny here", which doesn't seem on par with their usual laidback quiet humour. I liked the idea of the stories - like the prime minister, the doubles, Chloe as a crazier women than Mel,etc as supposed to the actual execution of them. Anyway, I found myself sitting through most of the episode with nary a laugh.

It probably didn't help that I didn't enjoy either songs too much. Like the korean song? I think I liked Colbert's korean song rendition much more.

But, wow, I love the guest stars this episode (wow! Thanks for pointing out that it was really the Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the end there).

dez said...

I thought this was the funniest ep of the season, although the songs were weak, as already pointed out. The PM holds meetings the same way Murray does! Now we know where Murray gets it from. I also loved Dave calling the PM "Your Majesty."

TimmyD said...

This episode gave me some much needed giggles after an absurdly gruesome episode of Big Love. The Graceland ending especially made me feel better! So funny.

Art McGregor said...

I liked the episode. It didn't leave me giggling throughout the episode (as has most of this season and season one) but it did get me laughing at parts. I loved the scene of Bret wearing the secret service sunglasses at night during the prime minister's outdoor speech. Thought fake Obama was a nice touch, too.

Wholi said...

If you were to chart the comedy and the music separately, the comedy line would be going through the roof while the line representing the music would be through the floor.

Had the same thoughts about cutting back to one or no songs in the future. It's the funniest show on TV and while the songs are suppose to add to the comedy, they rarely have this season. Give us more Mel acting wacky, and more of Dave's clueless remarks.

lungfish said...

I'm glad the karaoke lyric gave a parenthetical reference stating that kalbi is a beef delicacy- it really cleared things up.

I also liked the PM's concern over the romantic plot in "Cars".

Also, I highly recommend a trip to New Zealand! One of my favorite places in the world, although the jet lag may make you wake up with a start and ask if it's yesterday. I got over it by pulling an all nighter and watching 4 in flight movies on Air New Zealand's On Demand service.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the episode greatly - it left a lovely taste in my mouth. Sometimes the taste is likened to milk of a cow who has done nothing wrong.

kathy said...

Very funny, silly episode. Agree that the songs were not great this week and also agree that I'd opt for more comedy and less only so-so songs. Murray is such the star of this season, he steals every scene he's in. More Murray!

I also recommend a trip to NZ, the jet lag will kick your ass but it's worth it. Most New Zealand-y moment: Driving along the main highway on the North Island, nothing around for miles, and all of a sudden, there's a plane. Parked next to a gas station. And the plane is made out of cookies.

Texany said...

I really enjoyed last night's episode! It came nearest to reaching the dizzying heights of last season's creative ingenuity.

After my harsh comments last week, I decided to do some homework and started checking writing credits:

Turns out the Conchords didn't write last week's episode.

I'm so glad they were back last night. I loved Bret's FBI sunglasses and Chinese karaoke; Mel's disgust at Jemaine giving her the idea to turn Doug into Bret; the prime minister of NZ introducing himself with simply his first name; and Dave asking what language he was talking. English?; and Jemaine's song and dance with Bret's rock star guitar in the background was hilarious.

Great show.

Gregory the Hat Making Gnome said...

The songs were quite weak in last nights episode, but the story and comedy were fantastic. I guess that's about how I feel about most episodes this season. There are no songs that, for me, were as memorable as the songs from season 1, but in many cases I find episodes this season have better plots and comedy.

It might be a terrible idea to not have a song in every episode, although I guess that might defeat the purpose or something.

Mark Madel said...

Regardless of the uneven quality of the songs, I think this show is, without doubt, the most creative (and often the funnest) comedy currently on American television.

And I laughed my ass off during the karaoke number.

Mo Ryan said...

Loved the episode, absolutely loved the karaoke number ("You are healthy/ with the quality of a pheasant").

As soon as "Prime Minister" was over, I watched it again.

Definitely the best of the season.

Teddy said...

This was a really good episode. Demon Woman was an awesome song. Perfect parody of Cliff Richard's Devil Woman.
The Karaoke was awesome, so was the rest of the gags.

So Cal said...

Loved it when all teh dudes asked Jermaine how long he was going to go along with dressing like Garfunkel for Chloe:

"a week...a month...a couple of years..."

Great stuff. Glad they are using Dave and Murray more this season, and the Prime Minister was awesome, huge cell phone and all!

Tom said...

May be the best episode, ever, which is saying a lot. They worked in some excellent farce plotting ("I knew it! A glitch in the Matrix!") without losing the whimsy and improv spirit, and brothers, that ain't easy to do.

Why all the hate for the music? The Don Kirschner's Rock Concert video was superb, and perfect given the tribute-act theme. And Brett doing Korean karoake? Awesome.

My favorite bit might have been seeing Mel's hubby finally getting some action -- once Mel saw the possibilities of Garfunkling.

dez said...

Was the deja vu glitch during the first discussion of "The Matrix" (when they were having coffee with the PM) intentional or a continuity error? I could swear it's the same woman in the pink outfit who walked by them twice.

BigTed said...

I enjoyed the New Zealand jokes a lot, although you'd think they'd have gotten at least a little self-esteem boost from the "Lord of the Rings" movies.

Anonymous said...

"Garfunkeling!"

Beef - Canada said...

BRILLIANT

What a great show

The Prime Minister had so many great lines ... How did you get the Matrix ... we haven't got that in New Zealand yet. And then Obama at the end was priceless.

Murray continues to really be the best part of the show week in and week out.

Allen said...

Did anyone else detect a reference to Hitchcock's Veritgo? The scene that directly followed Mary-Lynn Rajskub's "dressing up" of Jemaine to look like Art(the Devil Woman song) had that greenish aura from the film and I kept thinking, this reminds me of Vertigo... maybe I was reading too much into it?

Anonymous said...

So, I am watching these on Ondemand, and do not expect anyone to read this, but wanted to post it. So, they went with Scarborough Fair as the S+G song to cover, which is a folk song. The Stone Roses did a semi version of it, called Elizabeth My Dear. Also, at the end of Eagle vs. Shark we got a Stone Roses song. Therefore, I am now obsessed with the idea that FOTC may also like The Stone Roses. I need this to be answered.