Saturday, August 01, 2009

Blog DVD Review: Flight of the Conchords - The Complete Second Season (Aug. 4)

Welcome to our weekly Blog DVD Review. Today we take a look at HBO Home Video's Flight of the Conchords - The Complete Second Season. Flight of the Conchords is the recently Emmy nominated comedy starring Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement as a folk singing duet from New Zealand making their way across a couple of continents and into New York City. See skees53's Blog DVD Review of Flight of the Conchords - The Complete Second Season:

Flight of the Conchords - The Complete Second Season (HBO, $29.98) brings the ten episodes of the hilarious second (and likely final) season of the HBO series to DVD on a two-disc set. For those unfamiliar with the series, Flight of the Conchords is a comedy series from HBO starring Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement as a folk singing duet from New Zealand making their way across a couple of continents and into New York City where they hope to translate their success. There is only one problem, though: their success as being the "fourth most popular folk parody duo" in New Zealand seems to be meaningless in New York City. Murray (Rhys Darby), their manager (who also has a day job in the New Zealand consulate office), is pretty sure that they are going to make it big in the future, but for now, he seems pretty pleased with getting the duo gigs at places such as airport lounges, libraries, and elementary schools. Bret and Jermaine do have a fanbase, but technically, it only consists of one fan, Mel (Kristen Schall), who happens to be a psychotically obsessed stalker who just so happens to be astonished at the unlikely odds when she happens to "bump in" to Bret and Jermaine as they walk out of their apartment every morning (while her husband Doug waits in a car across the street for several hours). Rounding out the cast is Dave Mohumbai (Arj Barker), a friend of Bret and Jermaine who is grown, but still lives with his mom and dad and works at Mohumbai & Son, his father's pawn shop. He is always there to help out Bret and Jermaine and tell them how things are done in America, and how they are different from Newfoundland, Australia, or whatever country he thinks they are from in any given episode. A lot (but certainly not all) of the comedy of the series comes from the hilarious songs that the duo performs in every episode.

At the end of the first season of the series, Murray decides to add Todd Barry (playing himself) a third member to the duo. This doesn't work out very well, but somehow, Todd ends up getting with Demetri Martin (also playing himself) to form their own duo, and Murray gets the honor of being their manager as well. Unfortunately for Bret and Jermaine, the "Crazy Dogggz" as they are called ends up being a smash hit worldwide and Murray begins to move all of his attention to them. This leads to Bret and Jermaine firing Murray in "A Good Opportunity," but the firing is short-lived when Bret and Jermaine do a women's toothpaste (although it isn't explained why it is only for women) commercial and need Murray to get them out of the deal once they remember that they are illegal immigrants. Murray is only more than eager to help, because his Crazy Dogggz band has been involved in a plagiarism lawsuit, and guess who is living in his car as a result of the lawsuit? In "The New Cup," Bret and Jermaine are so poor that they can only afford to have one teacup in their apartment that they must share, but Bret takes matters into his own hands and buys a teacup of his own for $2.79, which causes financial chaos and even leads to the guys trying to sell themselves as prostitutes! Bret is scared to death after he performs a song in a library where he "disses" rappers such as 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg and forms his own gang in "The Tough Brets," but will a gang consisting of Bret, a senior citizen, two Asian Internet café owners, and Dave really be able to protect anybody? Jermaine has found new love in "Unnatural Love," but she has a nasty little secret: she is Australian!

Bret and Jermaine both fall for a woman that has a dog with epilepsy in "Love is a Weapon of Choice," but will their love keep her dog from going into a seizure? Murray has found work for Bret and Jermaine as Simon and Garfunkel impersonators in "Prime Minister," which leads Jermaine finding a woman that is passionately in love with him... but only if he will "Garfunkel" with her (you'll have to watch to see what she means). Meanwhile, Murray is determined to do everything possible to arrange a meeting between the New Zealand Prime Minister and Barack Obama. Art Garfunkel portrays himself in the episode. Addiction is no laughing matter, but it is when Bret and Jermaine become addicted to hair gel in "NewZealandTown." Lucy Lawless guest stars. Bret finds a new girlfriend at the pet shop in "Wingmen," and decides to get to know her by using the same type of stalking tactics that Mel uses against him. When he discovers that she likes tough guys, he decides to "protect" her as Jermaine steals her purse in a staged purse-snatching incident gone totally wrong. The season (and perhaps series) ends with "Evicted," where Bret and Jermaine lose their apartment because they have been paying their rent in New Zealand dollars instead of American dollars. This leads to them moving in with Mel and her husband, but when they get separated, they must split custody of Bret and Jermaine. Will the Conchords get back together or is this the end? I won't spoil the ending of this episode!

The packaging for the set is very creative, using a standard snapcase and a sleeve over the snapcase. On the snapcase itself, we have a sketch of a few buildings in New York City with several clouds above it, and on the transparent sleeve, we have Bret and Jermaine flying among those clouds. When you remove the sleeve, Bret and Jermaine are no longer on the cover. This is a very nice touch, and is very similar to the previous release. The back of the box has the cast members dancing, along with the basic show information. Inside the case, there is a listing of all of the episodes with writing and directing credits, although there are no descriptions to be found here. Disc 1 has a picture of Bret sitting on the couch and Disc 2 has a picture of Jermaine sitting on the couch. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-6 and Disc 2 contains episodes 7-10, as well as the special features.

The menus on the set are very nicely done, with the main menu playing the theme music and showing Bret and Jermaine "flying" through the city (similar to the cover art). The options on the main menu are Episodes and Languages. Disc 2 also has a Special Features option. When you select Episodes, you get a list of the episodes on the disc as well as a Play All option. When you select an episode, you get a menu that has a brief episode description, as well as options for Preview, Play Episode, Episodes, and Main Menu. The Preview option takes you to a brief (invariably 27 seconds) promo for the episode from HBO. Every other option is basically self-explanatory. There are no scene selection menus, but chapters are placed appropriately within each episode.

The video and audio quality of the set is basically what you would expect from a series that aired just earlier this year. I'm sure that there are some flaws here and there, but it would take some very nitpicky viewing to really pick up on those flaws. The episodes are all in their original 16:9 aspect ratio and the audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. There is also a Spanish audio track, as well as English, Spanish, and French subtitles. Each episode is closed-captioned. As one would expect, each episode on the set is unedited, although that means highly variable runtimes as this is an HBO series. Runtimes for each episode are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "A Good Opportunity" (26:22)
2. "The New Cup" (26:55)
3. "The Tough Brets" (27:36)
4. "Murray Takes it to the Next Level" (27:24)
5. "Unnatural Love" (26:07)
6. "Love is the Weapon of Choice" (27:17)

Disc 2:
7. "Prime Minister" (27:52)
8. "NewZealandTown" (24:59)
9. "Wingmen" (26:57)
10. "Evicted" (27:46)

Many fans of the series were disappointed with the first season being completely devoid of special features, but there is good news this time--there actually are some special features. These can be found on Disc 2, although I guess one could argue that the episode promos are special features too in a sense. We begin with "Flight of the Conchords: An On-Air Documentary" (25:00), where we have a very nice interview with Bret and Jermaine about the series. They talk a lot about how they came up with the idea for the series, how they ended up in the United States, and how they got started (by getting lucky and having an HBO comedy special). It also includes interviews with others involved in the series, such as cast members Arj Barker, Rhys Darby, and Kristen Schall and producers James Bobbin and Stu Smiley. A lot of the interview talks about the history of the Conchords before the series, and their hopes for another season of the series (something that everybody seems to want, but isn't going to be easy logistically). It is fun to watch, and it seems that most of the cast members are very down-to-earth and legitimately enjoy working on the series. Deleted Scenes (25:02) takes you through a lengthy set of deleted scenes from episodes throughout the first season. There are a lot to describe here, and I won't attempt to do that, but they are very fun to watch.

Outtakes (7:06) gives you even more hilarious moments from the episodes where things didn't quite go as planned. Dave's Pawn Shop Commercials (3:06) is one of my favorite things on this set. These are fake commercials for Mohaumbai & Son, the pawnshop that Dave's father owns and Dave works for. I believe, though I may be mistaken, that these were produced as a special Internet feature for the series. There are three of these promos, and they look very good, in the typical cheesy low production value local pawnshop commercial fashion. Dave even raps in these commercials, with his father (a very traditional man from India who dresses professionally and has a full Indian accent) comes in at the end of the commercial and shouts "What you want we got it!" I've seen far too many pawnshop commercials that are very similar to these, and these are hilarious spoofs. In the same line as these commercials, we have "New Zealand Consulate Meetings with Murray & Greg" (3:33). These are just a bunch of fake meetings with Murray regarding his duties of working at the New Zealand Consulate, which really aren't very many duties at all. There are two of these, and again, these were features produced for the Internet
viewers.

I honestly believe that this is one of the most clever, creative, and funny series to hit the airwaves in a very long time. Unfortunately, the creativeness of the series is why it would be difficult to proceed to a third season--basically, Bret and Jermaine (the real ones, not the characters) only have so much music material that they have created, and a new season would require writing all new songs, something that can't simply be squeezed in between television seasons. But who knows, maybe the series will be back again some day. The series received a handful of Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Whether or not it will win is another question, but to be nominated is a big honor by itself. As far as this DVD set is concerned, it would have been nice to have some commentaries and some more interviews, but at least it is better than the release of the first season, which had no special features at all. This is a hilarious series that fans of any type of comedy will definitely enjoy. So get out and pick up this Dubbed Video Dub (you'll have to watch the show to know what I mean by that) today, along with the first season if you don't already have it!

Reviewed by skees53
(4.5/5 stars)

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