I’d sworn to myself that I would stop buying random DVDs, so I could save up for the next 30 Rock boxset… but while I was checking prices in WHSmith, I spotted the second season of Flight of the Conchords on sale for just three English pounds! Clearly the retail gods were smiling on me, so it would have been foolish to snub them, right?
For those who don’t know, Conchords is a musical sitcom, which follows the misadventures of two impoverished, inglorious folk musicians from New Zealand, named ‘Bret’ and ‘Jemaine’, who are sleepily stumbling after the American Dream in New York city. They’re aided by a fellow Kiwi named ‘Murray’, who moonlights as their manager while working at the Consulate, and ‘Dave’, an Indian-American pawnshop owner, who bedazzles them with childish brags about his sexual prowess and all-around awesomeness. I seem to remember watching the second season of Conchords on TV shortly after borrowing the first from a friend on DVD, and having quite high expectations… which were dashed when their sophomore effort failed to live up to its predecessor, both in terms of jokes and songs. But watching it again, in isolation, I actually found it very funny this time around. Their off-key naivety and low-key banter plays so well against the lavish surrealism of the musical numbers, and the show really stands out as a unique and disarming mash-up of styles, the like of which we haven’t seen since.
Obviously our main “person of interest” here is Kristen Schaal, who plays the boys’ lone fan, ‘Mel’, a super-cute stalker who follows them everywhere like a starry-eyed ninja, popping up at inconvenient moments to present them with creepy home-made tributes, or offer unsolicited advice on their love lives (her standard line being that they should avoid any contact with all other women). Meanwhile, her long-suffering husband ‘Doug’ tags along for the ride, sighing wearily and looking the other way. Bless. It was a smart move on the writers’ part to lumber her with a spouse, because otherwise there’s really no reason for the boys to spurn her ardent advances… I mean, yes, she may be crazy, but she’s also totally adorable! And this season, she even got to sing a song of her own (“Dream”, ep #2.4), which was paired with a suitably bizarre video, including an image of an Egyptian temple watched over by a Schaal-headed sphinx. I would totally worship at that temple… especially if they handed out free cookies (with or without my face on them). Apparently Mel used to have her own video blog (or vlog) too, but the clips weren’t included on any of the DVDs, which is a bit of a shame… so enjoy it while you can!
As for the supporting players: In ep #2.2, Jemaine is forced to sell his body on the street, to pay off the unforeseen debts accrued after Bret’s thoughtless purchase of a new cup… and his first/only client is played by Mary Catherine Garrison, who also appeared in the third season of 30 Rock, as one of the women-of-leisure Liz starts hanging with after she’s suspended for sexual harassment. You don’t really see much of her in the episode itself, but there’s a deleted scene on the DVD showing how Jemaine picked her up at a hotel bar… although it’s never really explained why such an attractive woman would need to pay for male companionship… especially with that super-sharp bob she’s sporting! In keeping with the seasonal Halloween theme, this show also featured some of the most terrifying bogeys in television history: Australians! In ep #2.5 (titled “Unnatural Love”), Jemaine accidentally hooks up with an Aussie chick named ‘Keitha’ in a night-club… because apparently the music was too loud for him to hear her “evil” accent. They really go overboard with Keitha’s patriotism, plastering her apartment with pictures of kangaroos, and even having her sleep under a giant poster of Ayers Rock… but at least they were nice enough to cast a fair dinkum Aussie in the role, and Sarah Wynter seems to be having fun playing down to the negative stereotype. Apparently Wynter moved to New York as a teenager to pursue her acting career, and has appeared in numerous American productions since then… including the pilot of Sex and the City, which earned her a SAG union card, as well as the dubious honour of being the first woman to be seen having sex on that show! She also replaced Laura Harris as ‘Daisy Adair’ in Dead Like Me: Life After Death, the straight-to-DVD spin-off I still can’t bring myself to watch.
Ep #2.6 co-starred Kristen Wiig as ‘Barbara’ (or is it “Brahbrah”?) the lady with the lazy-eye who ropes the boys into helping her search for a missing mutt, after they both fall for her in the park one morning. Most of the jokes here revolve around Bret and Jemaine competing for her affections by copying the other’s most distinctive physical feature, but Wiig’s character steals the episode with a killer last line. In ep #2.7, Mary Lynn Rajskub played an ‘Art Garfunkel fanatic’ who latches on to Jemaine after Murray talks the boys into performing as a Simon & Garfunkel tribute act. Rajskub is probably best known for her leading role as ‘Chloe O’Brian’ on 24, but she’s also done a shedload of comedy, including recurring roles on The Larry Sanders Show, Veronica’s Closet and Mr. Show… as well as a solo theatrical piece inspired by her experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, titled “Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs”. Crikey! For me the most exciting cameo came in ep #2.8, when Lucy Lawless: Warrior Princess appeared as ‘Paula’, a rather dowdy tourist board representative, who was helping to establish a more visible Kiwi presence in New York, via the opening of the NewZealandTown “attraction”. Sadly her official duties mostly involved delegating tedious administrative tasks to Murray, rather than leaping around and swinging a sword… but she still managed to squeeze a laugh out of the scene where she asks Murray for the time, so bless her for that. Finally, Halley Feiffer appeared in ep #2.9 as ‘Savannah’, an employee of the local pet shop (or “cheap zoo”), who Bret attempts to woo with the help of his clueless wingmen, Jemaine and Dave. Aside from guest appearances in Ugly Betty and The Good Wife, the most eye-catching entry on Feiffer’s resume is a co-writing credit for an upcoming comedy film starring Ben Stiller and Natasha Lyonne, titled He’s Way More Famous Than You, directed by Michael Urie!