Eat. Sleep. Folk. Again.
When New Zealands premier digi-folk pioneers returned for another ten episodes of their sitcom, there was cause to be concerned. After all, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement had years to hone their Season 1 songs, classics like Bowie and Business Time, first on Antipodean TV station Channel 7, then with stints on the Edinburgh Fringe and BBC radio. Under pressure to hurry another season out while they were still white-hot, could they pen a fresh clutch of addictive tunes while keeping the talky stuff sharp?
The struggle in the writers room is most evident in Season 2s opening stretch. Fan favourite Murray (Rhys Darby) gets another song, the operatic Rejected, but its a let-down after his S1 ditty Leggy Blonde. And while there are great moments a gang of Australians, headed up by Neighbours Alan Dale (who else?), torment Murray in The Tough Brets; Bret becomes a male escort in The New Cup, leading to a sublime take-off of the Black Eyed Peas My Humps; and the guys pen a hip-hop battle track (Snoop Dogg is not very good... Mos Def is not very good) the first slew of episodes feel forced, bad news for this most whimsical of comedies.
Thank goodness, then, for cine-hipster Michel Gondry, who steps in to guest-direct fifth episode Unnatural Love. His ingenious grab-bag visuals fuse perfectly with the Conchords style, producing a freaky, hilarious tale of forbidden love in which Jemaine accidentally sleeps with an Australian. Gondrys input jolts the season into life, as its gold from there on in. A subsequent two-parter gives Murray a perfect foil in the demented Prime Minister of New Zealand (Brian Sergent), a puffed-up diplomat who owns suitcase cheese and is obsessed with The Matrix. And who but the Conchords could get away with a sustained subplot about hair gel?
McKenzie and Clement havent futzed with the formula despite a visit to the White House and an off-Broadway climax, this remains a show about two losers trying to meet girls. Theyre still lovably unflappable in the face of failure. But will we see them again? Theyre not telling, but we have a feeling Bret and Jemaine wont be stuck on Mount Ruapehu for long.