Bret and Jemaine would like some grapes, please
Flight of the Conchords Season 2 takes flight on DVD
Chris Knight, National Post
Published: Friday, August 14, 2009
I'm not usually troubled by TV comedies, but a few months ago, an episode of the HBO's Flight of the Conchords had me perplexed for the better part of two days. At issue was a song sung by Bret, one of the two main characters, about a woman he'd just seen in the street. (The show, if you haven't seen it, stars Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as a pair of New Zealand musicians struggling to make it big in New York City. Also, if you haven't seen it, you should get your hands on its two seasons, the second out this week on DVD.)
The lyrics were hilarious and yet oddly familiar. Bret sings:
"So I sat and I acted all nonchalant;
She smoked her lavender cigarette,
Reading the future that lay in my hands
As my shadow played a bass clarinet."
The song, Rambling Through the Avenues of Time, is one of the lovingly spoofy musical numbers that punctuate Flight of the Conchords, and for which McKenzie and Clement have found fame in New Zealand, the Edinburgh fringe, the Montreal comedy fest and finally America. After two days of puzzling and a few Googles in the dark, I learned why it sounded so familiar. It was a skewed and skewered version of Peter Sarstedt's 1969 hit song Where Do You Go To (My Lovely), which includes such painfully earnest, meaningless lyrics as:
"Your name is heard in high places.
You know the Aga Khan.
He sent you a racehorse for Christmas
And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh, ha-ha-ha."
The only annoying thing about the two-disc set of the second season's 10 episodes is that there isn't a menu to allow quick access to the musical numbers. Not that the shows aren't worth watching in their entirety, but it would be nice to be able to jump right to the plaintive aria Rejected, the argumentative We're Both in Love with a Sexy Lady or the self-explanatory Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor). Even out of context, Flight of the Conchords' tunes have a rare combination of being enjoyable both for their comic lyrics and catchy melodies.
On the upside, the set includes an enjoyable seven minutes of outtakes. Even better are 25 minutes of deleted scenes that are just as funny as anything that made it to air.
Case in point: In the first deleted scene, Bret and Jemaine try to cold-call clubs and restaurants for gigs. Jemaine succeeds only in making a dinner reservation, so Bret gives it a try, but has problems because of his accent.
"I wonder if you have any gigs available?" he begins. A pause. "Wondering if you have any gigs available? (pause) Gigs. (pause). Gigs. (pause) For a band? (pause) A band. We're a band. (Pause) A band." He finally makes himself understood and agrees to be paid in tuna salad, but runs into more trouble when giving his name, which sounds like "Brit" given his antipodal pronunciation.
"It's Bret," he says patiently. "B. R. (pause) R. (pause) R. (pause) R. (pause) R. (pause) R. (pause) ARRR! (pause) E.T." He declines to spell out Jemaine. It's hard to blame him.
The discs also include a short making-of, which succeeds in displaying the sharp, flowing wit of its stars but hardly scratches the surface of how they came to be so good at what they do. The trouble with funny geniuses is that, by the time you stop laughing at their answers, you realize they haven't actually answered the question.
On the subject of fame, Jemaine says he imagined that working with HBO would involve dressing rooms "full of fruit bowls." Bret adds: "Grapes fed to you and stuff like that." But it wasn't that glamorous. Says Jemaine: "Even if they just had some grapes." Bret: "Or even some grape juice." Flight of the Conchords hasn't let either music or comedy take the back firstname.lastname@example.org