“The New Cup”
January 25th, 2009
It’s been a while since I visited Flight of the Conchords’ sophomore season, having reviewed last week’s premiere back in December when it was streaming online, but I have to say that I think “New Cup” is perhaps a slight improvement on some fronts and a bit of a step back in others.
The show is, largely, back to its old self in most ways here: the Murray/band dynamic is as inspired as ever, and their seasons crackle here. The problem is that the rest of the plot doesn’t, so much: comparatively, the dialogue seems forced and tired, and the prostitution storyline felt off for me. This is a bit of a shift, though, because I found the songs superior to that in the premiere, more tied to the action; it’s just unfortunate, then, that they were tied to the part of the episode that felt the most sitcom-esque and lacked what I view as the fundamentals of the show’s usual charm.
The basics are all here, don’t get me wrong: what other show can spin off of a new cup and suddenly spiral into prostitution, lewd rap songs about genitalia, and a ripoff of Roxanne? The show is still great at showing how the mundane can be exciting, but this felt a bit too exciting for its own good by a certain point.
In terms of the songs, I’m sure that “Sugar Lumps” will be considered the breakout hit of the episode, but I’ll admit to not being a fan of the non-melodic Conchords stuff. This isn’t to say it isn’t entertaining, or that the idea of these two very white New Zealanders rapping doesn’t hold water, but rather that I kind of like it when I’m stuck humming these songs for days after the fact and this doesn’t happen with the raps for me. This is largely just a preference thing, but the song wasn’t particularly clever by any means, and still lacked that something special which marked the original conchords catalogue.
The same can go for “You Don’t Have to Be a Prostitute,” which was essentially a takeoff of Roxanne without…well, without much of anything. I found it catchy enough, but lyrically it was kind of borderline uninteresting and nothing was really done with the video surrounding it that was any different from “Sugar Lumps” (Jermaine dancing suggestively evolved to Jermaine dancing suggestively in short shorts, as an example). It really felt like they were like “Okay, we need to write two songs that relate to male prostitution,” as opposed to any real burst of creativity involved. It’s one thing to ripoff Roxanne a bit with the last one, but it never really even turned into an homage or anything but a tepid reimagining with less musical interest.
I know that seems kind of harsh, but there’s a certain standard that I don’t think we can avoid, and one that much of the rest of the episode feld up pretty well. The opening band meeting where Bret doesn’t have a guitar was complete and utter comedy gold: Murray’s definition of “Dad Guitar” and “Mom Guitar,” Murray having to look down at his notes to make sure that Bret is supposed to have a guitar, and pretty much everything else about that scene. Murray is proving to be the show’s saving grace right now: his writeups in the New Zealand Consulate newsletter were gold, his lack of understanding about the internet done but nonetheless charming, and even if they ripped off 30 Rock for its “Nigerian scam actually turning out to be real” plotline I enjoyed that the guy actually showed up and was morally outraged at prostitution.
I was a little bit less impressed with Mel, despite Kristen Schaal continuing to act the hell out of this part (I always love her absent-minded ticks when around the band, here her reaching out to bite the super straw). She’s insanely charming, and I love when Doug shows up on the couch watching the entire massage, but outside of some strong physicality it all felt kind of extraneous and overdone to me. It just feels like the show is grabbing at straws or something, and while there are some great characters interactions in between certain bits some of it just really rang false for me. I stopped laughing at a certain point and just started observing, and while the show isn’t meant to be a laugh a minute I didn’t think I’d tire of the characters’ awkwardness this quickly.
Perhaps if I had been waiting since last season, as opposed to this summer when I was first introduced to the series, maybe the delay would have me in a better position for this material. Unfortunately, I’m just not feeling it right now.
- Seriously, Rhys Darby is hysterical: my other favourite sudden moment of self-doubt or self-appreciation was when, as the band was pointing out that he was the one writing negative things about them, they told him his picture was there and he steals a look at it before smiling proudly. Such great comic timing in general, and just a really impressive performance overall.
- I may not have liked the prostitution storyline very much because the very basic stuff was much more interesting, like Bret realizing that he paid $2.50 for his Super Straws and was only charging $1. That’s the kind of basic stuff that I think would have been more comically interesting, at least for me.
- The mouse trap conclusion to the episode within the credits was as charming as it gets – a nice topper to the episode that really does a nice job of tying it together.