Sunday, February 01, 2009

Flight of the Conchords, "The Tough Brets": Did Steve tell you that, perchance? Steeeeve!

Spoilers for tonight's "Flight of the Conchords" coming up just as soon as I start a bikey gang...

"I'm the Tough Brets." -Murray

Where last week's episode was a perfect combination of music and laughter, "The Tough Brets" felt more like the season premiere. The series becomes more self-assured as a comedy with each passing week -- Bret forming the world's lamest street gang to protect himself from non-existent rap rivalries had the appropriate Dada touch -- but the songs were largely forgettable. The hurt feelings number was really only notable for the reprise, and there only because Mel, Doug and Greg got to join Murray as the singers. And, a few weeks after first watching, I couldn't tell you a thing about the final song except that it was a "West Side Story" pastiche.

Still, the gang was a delight, with Dave trying to prove how dangerous garden tools can be and Seymour Cassel doing one of his patented elderly eccentrics as senile old gangster Johnny Boy. ("Gentlemen Jims" was probably my favorite of his long list of gang names, but I could be talked into picking "Monkey Lords" instead.) And, of course, the whole plot featured that now familiar "Conchords" plot illogic, with Bret and Murray becoming convinced that Missy Elliott or someone like her was on their way to smoke Bret based on a library gig that no one paid attention to.

The other two plots weren't quite as strong. Mel's increasingly homo-erotic fan painting was a cute sight gag to a point but didn't really go anywhere. Murray getting bullied by his counterparts at the Australian consulate was a nice continuation of the show's running gag about Aussie/Kiwi tensions, and cleverly cast the ubiquitous Alan Dale (a native New Zealander) as the wicked Australian ambassador. I hope to see more of him, when he isn't busy trying to murder Benjamin Linus.

A few other thoughts:

• Speaking of the series' unique logic, I like that Bret's skinniness -- and Murray and Jemaine's belief that this is a bad thing -- has become a running gag.

• The guys explain to Dave that there are only three rappers in New Zealand, including Steve -- whom I'm assuming is the guy first mentioned in "Rhyemoceros." Who is this Steve, and why has he angered the Conchords so?

• Another good running gag is Murray's lack of command of the English language, here with him insisting that The Tough Brets be "disbandoned."

Finally, I had hoped to transcribe the interview I did with Bret, Jemaine and producer James Bobin in time to run with this review (or in lieu of this review), but I just didn't get a chance. Hopefully, I'll get it done by late next week. I imagine it's going to take a lot longer than the usual transcript because of the accents -- and the similar timbre of Bret and James' voices on the phone -- and so I need to carve out a while where I'll have the time to go back and listen over, and over, and over again. Sigh... But they do answer the question about Steve -- sort of.

What did everybody else think?


Josh Mauthe said...

I liked the episode more than you, tho I agree that the Stay Cool number went on too long. But any episode with Seymour Cassel can't be all bad, to say nothing of that brilliant gag of Mr. Lee slapping Jemaine from inside the cabinet. Surprised you didn't like "Hurt Feelings" more - I absolutely loved it.

I agree with the AV Club writer, who said that it seems like the songs this season are being written in service of the plots, and not vice versa, but "Hurt Feelings" felt very much like them at their best.

Alanna said...

I can't decide which is better: rather bland songs in service of the great plots, or often-sketchy plots being written around marvelous songs. The show wouldn't exist without their back catalogue, but I do like that they're becoming more ambitious writers (even if they sometimes fall a bit short.)

I also love the OZvsNZ rivalry. It took me a few seconds to remember that Alan Dale is a Kiwi, then I enjoyed that scene even more.

Funny how Bret is mocked as "the tiny one", given that he's six feet tall.

Oh, and a heads-up that tickets for their North American tour go on sale tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed Stay Cool quite a bit, if only for the choreography of it. Watching Murray, Jemaine, and Greg flail around was hilarious, and I liked how there's the continuity with Bret revealing his feelings through dance from last season.

Hurt Feelings was indeed much better in the reprise in both the song and the execution of the video, and while I liked the play of the video for the first part, it didn't seem to fit in with the song as well as their previous videos did.

I agree that there is a certain ambitiousness to their story writing in the new season, but I'm not sure that this particular episode came together as well as the second episode did. Good gags, but not as good storylines.

I envy those who'll get to see them tour later this year, of course. Good luck!

And Alan, thanks for putting the time in to transcribe the interview, even if it's not yet out. I look forward to it, very much. :D (So who has a stronger accent?)

Rachel said...

Alanna - Thank you so much for posting that link! I hadn't heard they were even going on tour. I'd wanted to see them last year, but I didn't hear about the concert until it was sold out...and now I have an orchestra seat!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Alanna. Just got tix in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

I think the Hurt Feelings reprise was parodying the scene in Magnolia with everybody singing "Wise Up". It had that feel, down to the instrumentation.

Anonymous said...

While I have generally agreed with you that the songs are weaker this season, I enjoyed "Tears of a Rapper" the first time around, was genuinely touched during the reprise, and as a big "West Side Story" fan, I laughed so hard I had tears coming down my face during the take-off of "Cool."

lungfish said...

I actually liked the songs this week. Some of the other things I laughed at:

Murray's suggested rhymes in the team meeting agenda (Murray/ curry)

Dave's weapons (attack glove and hose with watering can)

Mr Lee hiding in the cabinet and taking the cereal.

Hal Incandenza said...

Agreed re: Magnolia. That was my first thought, too.

Probably the weakest ep of the three so far (and maybe the first ep in the show's history that actually dragged a bit), but "Hurt Feelings," plus the interplay between Murray and Greg made it well worth the watch.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that this is once again, a brilliantly inspired example of this dead pan comedy that the Conchords are continually perfecting.
I even find myself laughing at the heavy kiwi pronounciation of "Yiss".

Did anyone else find the
"chopped his whole body off" gag absolutely histerical.

As for the music, the band is just showing its range. By not repeating itself too often, the show will have more staying power for many seasons to come.

I cant wait until Steve visits from N.Z. There will be hell to pay!

Matthew said...

Personally, my favourite joke was the way Murray kept making the first item on the agenda some new rhyme he's thought of.

I wish there was some way I could help Alan interpret the interview. As a New Zealander, it's probably a lot easier for me to understand them through the accents.

Anonymous said...

I loved the "leave snoopy alone. he's cute" (paraphrased, obviously) line from Murray.

I've been singing Hurt Feelings since I watched the show Monday night.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party...but the episode was worth it alone for the hilarious West Side Story dance. And the timing of Alan Dale's cracking the same joke as his employees was great. Finally, I enjoyed Murray's telling Bret that a secret source had told him about the Tough Brets assaulting Jemaine.

Faye said...

Just seen this is the UK and I squealed at the sight of Adam Garcia (Coyote Ugly, for shame) and hoped there'd be a dance number, plus it was fab! Also loved the Alan Dale with his Aussie accent - so beloved over here as Jim from legendary soap Neighbours. I second the identification of the reprise of Hurt Feels as Wise Up, it took me a minute to notice but loved that too