Remember When the Flight of the Conchords Got “Mugged”?

HBO’s short-lived musical collection was at its greatest when the protagonists wandered naively into unusual conditions, like on this Season 1 episode.

HBO

By Valerie Ettenhofer · Published on December 2nd, 2021

This essay is a component of  Episodes, a month-to-month column during which senior contributor Valerie Ettenhofer digs into the singular chapters of tv that make the medium nice. This entry revisits one of the funniest and most surreal episodes of Flight of the Conchords: “Mugged.”


In 2007, Juke flip telephones had been all the rage, “Soulja Boy” was on each radio station, and all the cool youngsters had been obsessive about a two-man comedy band from New Zealand. Not each development that year was constructed to final, however Flight of the Conchords positive was.

The HBO collection, which follows the fictional exploits of the actual band of the identical title, solely ran for 2 brief seasons. Its stars and co-creators, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, left a third-season deal on the desk, deciding to focus on less exhaustive projects as an alternative. The 22 ensuing episodes are about as beloved as a cult traditional can get. Flight of the Conchords arrived in an period of indie comedy dominance however cast its personal path with its foolish, self-effacing sense of humor and fish-out-of-water protagonists.

One of the joys of the collection is that, regardless of its comparatively small back-catalog, each fan appears to have a unique favourite episode. I’ve all the time been a fan of its good-natured nods to the ever-turning wheel of fortune and episodes that position the guys as fools wandering into surreal conditions. In “The New Cup,” for instance, Bret buys a $2.79 cup that makes the guys’ funds spiral out of management, finally main Jemaine to an unsuccessful career as a intercourse employee. And in “New Zealand Town,” the guys develop into well-liked after getting hooked on hair gel, then lose their viewers once they run out of the stuff.

The earliest and most splendidly weird twist of destiny episode of Flight of the Conchords, although, is likely to be the collection’ greatest: “Mugged.”

It opens with Bret on a cellphone name. He’s speaking to his mother, insisting he doesn’t want a gun as a result of America isn’t as harmful as she thinks it’s. We solely hear his facet of the dialog, however in typical Flight of the Conchords vogue, each understated line is hilarious. “That’s Bruce Willis, though,” he corrects her as she presumably continues campaigning for him to arm himself. “He’s acting.”

Meanwhile, Jemaine pesters Bret from his spot on the front room sofa. He’s off-topic, insisting Bret inform his mother about all the TV stations in America. How many are there? “A lot,” Bret says. “More than four.”

The present’s fictionalized variations of Bret and Jemaine are endlessly loveable, partially as a result of of their small-town naivety. They had been rural shepherds earlier than coming to America, they usually don’t look like they’ll ever get used to the large metropolis. When they face strife, they often under-react, maintaining issues low-key even in the strangest circumstances.

The theme of ever-present hazard continues by means of their band meeting with supervisor Murray (Rhys Darby). The guys need to do gigs at night time, however Murray insists it’s too harmful. He says they may very well be run over, get pickpocketed, fall down a manhole, get murdered, and even simply be ridiculed. Another cause to like Flight of the Conchords’ protagonists? They’re a pair of full and complete sweeties, the form of guys who’re simply as scared of being made enjoyable of as being murdered.

Murray offers the duo some security gear to make navigating New York really feel much less perilous. He items them NYC hats and t-shirts, in order that they’ll slot in, and outsized maps, too. “Keep them open every time you stop,” he says, giving the actual reverse of good security recommendation. Dressed like a pair of vacationers, Bret and Jemaine trip their bikes right into a graffiti-covered alley. Murray, in any case, says it’s higher to take deserted facet streets to keep away from crowds.

Then comes the titular mugging. Bret and Jemaine run right into a pair of low-lives named John (Lenny Venito) and Mickey (Luther Creek). The strangers ask for a cigarette, and when the guys say they don’t smoke, issues escalate. “He’s a psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est,” John says, making The Talking Heads sound ominous. Bret says the pair solely has $15, however when the guys ask for it, he tells them it’s really in the financial institution. This seems like an ill-planned lie, however it’s not: our heroes actually are broke as hell.

That makes them horrible theft targets. Their solely different possession is a “camera-phone,” a flip cellphone with a digital camera glued to it. When the muggers name the pair “English f****ts,” they lastly snap. Except, naturally, snapping in the world of Flight of the Conchords means slipping into musical actuality to carry out a goofy rap.

The guys carry out “Hiphopopotamus Vs Rhymenoceros,” a Conchords track that existed earlier than the HBO present. Like most of their raps, it veers between ridiculousness and genius. “My rhymes are bottomless,” Jemaine insists, earlier than taking a number of beats of silence to suppose of one other line. Bret questions claims that his rhymes are “sissy,” then says “There ain’t no party like my Nana’s tea party,” with an lovely cutaway clip to match.

The scene is shot like a rap music video, with all low angles and difficult poses, besides when it cuts to Bret and Jemaine doing a geeky little dance routine. When they arrive again to earth, Mickey asks if they only began “dancin’ a little bit” in the center of the theft.

Flight of the Conchords might be uproariously humorous, however its most essential high quality is likely to be its creativeness. Characters, largely aggressive Americans, usually question aspects of Bret and Jemaines’ masculinity. In response, they escape from the restrictions of actuality into songs which might be usually about their innermost emotions. They sing about crises of confidence, male friendship, and eager to be David Bowie. It’s the antithesis of poisonous masculinity, and it’s the half of the present that’s gotten even higher with age. The bandmates have a quite simple, open-hearted perspective, and the greed and dirt of New York City by no means handle to alter them.

It’s solely pure, then, that these guys have a tough time greedy the idea of a theft. When John and Mickey chase them down with a knife, they lastly understand this isn’t only a dialog. Jemaine’s corduroy jacket will get caught on a fence, and Bret makes a run for it, leaving his buddy behind. “I’m too scared, man!” he says plainly.

Two days later, Bret returns to the alleyway with Murray and their epically American buddy Dave (Arj Barker) in tow. Dave is sporting camouflage and carrying what seems to be like a paintball machine gun. Jemaine hasn’t been dwelling in two days. “He may be dead,” Murray says in his New Zealand accent. “He maybe did what?” Dave asks. This trade goes on for some time — lengthy sufficient for it to begin to appear silly, then circle again round to hysterical.

The guys reminisce about Jemaine. He was all the time so useful, Murray says. For instance, he helped Bret when his head acquired caught in a chair and when his hand acquired caught in a jar. “What a f—king asshole,” Dave says ruefully as if it’s a praise. This scene is principally the reverse of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Instead of everybody beating one joke to loss of life collectively, every actor is on a totally completely different comedic and tonal wavelength. The result’s disorientingly hilarious. Like the greatest bits of Flight of the Conchords, it’s overlaid with super-quick jokes and throwaway traces you won’t catch till your second or third viewing.

Meanwhile, Jemaine is caught in jail with John. The pair bond over the indisputable fact that their besties each left them behind. John talks about taking pictures a man after which studying his buddy had referred to as off the hit. Jemaine compares it to a time Bret stood him up at the motion pictures. They kind an uneasy bond. When Jemaine will get out, he’s irritated with Bret for leaving him to die, however nobody may be very sympathetic. “Old news!” Murray half-shouts at their subsequent band meeting. “No one likes a moaner!”

Jemaine goes out with John and his girlfriend. They shit-talk Bret, just for the digital camera to chop to a wider shot, revealing Bret’s been sitting with them the complete time. This is neither the first nor the final shot in the episode that comically reveals the presence of a beforehand unseen character. Somehow, it will get funnier every time it occurs.

Bret goes into overdrive attempting to make it as much as Jemaine. In a montage, we see he’s written an apology on a sheet, made his pal a cup of scorching tea, and baked him a pizza together with his face on it. Jemaine’s merely not having it. He lets Bret scald himself with the tea and says he’s not hungry for pizza. These guys might have a childlike sense of innocence, however typically they’re additionally simply infantile.

As will develop into the norm in the collection, the duo ultimately makes up by way of track. They escape into an apparent “Where Is The Love” parody referred to as “Think About It.” They wax poetic on points they know nothing about, like world well being, quick vogue, and gangs of roving youths who stab individuals with cutlery. The track, like the relaxation of the episode, pokes mild enjoyable at the very American panic round avenue violence. By the time they get to the track’s finish, they appear like a united entrance as soon as extra. That’s good as a result of simply then, they run into Mickey and John once more.

This time, the two pairs meet on good phrases. Mickey offers them their camera-phone again and even will get the pictures on it developed. They’re all of Bret and Jemaine hanging out — awww. Unfortunately, Mickey and John’s friendship didn’t fare in addition to the Conchords’. The criminals had large goals to kidnap a wealthy child, however now John’s stealing an previous girl’s purse, and Mickey’s too depressed to hitch in.

It’s a story of two friendships, however the phantasm of widespread floor is shattered when Mickey invitations the guys to a white supremacist meeting. It’s a jarring second that places a sudden finish to this surreal episode. We by no means hear from John or Mickey once more. Our naive heroes, ceaselessly unfazed by life in the large metropolis, determine to go for pizza as an alternative.

Related Topics: Episodes

Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance author, TV-lover, and mac and cheese fanatic. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers tv by means of common evaluations and her recurring column, Episodes. She can be a voting member of the Critics Choice Association’s tv and documentary branches. Twitter: @aandeandval (She/her)

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