Do you remember when Flight of the Conchords was “assaulted”?

HBO’s short-lived musical series was at its best as the main characters naively wandered into strange situations, as in this episode of season 1.

Flight Of The Conchords Mugged

HBO

By Valerie Ettenhofer · Published on December 2, 2021

This essay is part of Episodes, a monthly column in which senior contributor Valerie Ettenhofer digs into the unique chapters in television that make the medium amazing. This post revisits one of the funniest and most surreal episodes of Flight of the Conchords: “Mugged.”


In 2007, Juke flip phones were in the spotlight, “Soulja Boy” was on every radio station, and all the cool kids were obsessed with a two-man comedy band from New Zealand. Not every trend that year was built to last, however Flight of the Conchords certainly was.

The HBO series, which follows the fictional exploits of the real band of the same name, only ran for two short seasons. Its stars and co-creators, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, left a third-season deal on the table and decided instead to focus on less exhaustive projects. The 22 resulting episodes are about as beloved as a cult classic can become. Flight of the Conchords arrived in an era of indie-comedy dominance, but struck his own path with his silly, self-effacing sense of humor and fish-out-of-the-water protagonists.

One of the joys of the series is that despite its relatively small back catalog, all fans seem to have a different favorite episode. I’ve always been partial to its good-natured nod to the ever-rotating wheel of fortune and episodes that place guys like fools wandering into surreal situations. In “The New Cup”, for example, Bret buys a cup for $ 2.79 that gets the guys’ finances out of control, which ultimately leads Jemaine to a failed career as a sex worker. And in “New Zealand Town”, the guys become popular after becoming addicted to hair gel and then lose their audience when they run out of things.

The earliest and most wonderfully bizarre fateful episode of Flight of the Conchords, though perhaps the best in the series: “The assault. “

It opens with Bret on a phone call. He talks to his mother and insists he does not need a gun because America is not as dangerous as she thinks it is. We only hear his side of the conversation, but typically The escape of Concord fashion, any understated line is fun. “It’s Bruce Willis, though,” he corrects her, as she presumably continues to campaign for him to arm himself. “He’s performing.”

Meanwhile, Jemaine is harassing Bret from his seat on the couch in the living room. He is off-topic and insists that Bret should tell his mother about all the TV stations in America. How many are there? “A lot,” Bret says. “More than four.”

The show’s fictionalized versions of Bret and Jemaine are infinitely lovable, in part because of their small-town naivete. They were rural shepherds before they came to America, and they do not look like they will ever get used to the big city. When faced with strife, they often underreact and keep things quiet even in the strangest of circumstances.

The theme of ever-present danger continues through their band meeting with manager Murray (Rhys Darby). The guys want to do concerts at night, but Murray insists it’s too dangerous. He says they could be run over, become pickpockets, fall into a manhole, be murdered or even just be ridiculed. Another reason to love The escape of Conchords’ main characters? They are a couple of utterly cute, the kind of guys who are just as scared of being made fun of as being murdered.

Murray gives the duo some safety gear so navigating New York feels less dangerous. He presents them with NYC hats and t-shirts to fit them, and also oversized cards. “Keep them open every time you stop,” he says, giving the exact opposite of good safety advice. Dressed as a couple of tourists, Bret and Jemaine ride their bikes into a graffiti-covered alley. Murray says, after all, that it is better to take abandoned side streets to avoid crowds.

Then comes the titular assault. Bret and Jemaine bump into a couple of low-key people named John (Lenny Venito) and Mickey (Luther Creek). The strangers ask for a cigarette and when the guys say they do not smoke, things escalate. “He’s a psychic killer, What is it, ”Says John, making The Talking Heads sound ominous. Bret says the couple only has $ 15, but when the guys ask for it, he tells them it’s actually in the bank. It sounds like a poorly planned lie, but it’s not: our heroes are really shattered.

That makes them terrible robbers. Their only other possession is a “camera phone”, a flip phone with a camera glued to it. When the assailants call the couple “English f **** ts”, they finally snap. Except, of course, snapping in the world of Flight of the Conchords means slipping into the musical reality to perform a silly rap.

The guys perform “Hiphopopotamus Vs Rhymenoceros”, a Conchords song that existed before the HBO show. Like most of their rappers, it fluctuates between ridiculousness and genius. “My rhymes are bottomless,” Jemaine insists, before taking several beats of silence to think of another line. Bret questions claim his rhyme is “silly” and then says “There is no party like my Nana’s tea party,” with an adorable clip that matches.

The scene is recorded as a rap music video, with all the low angles and hard poses, except when it goes beyond Bret and Jemaine, who do a nerdy little dance routine. When they get back to earth, Mickey asks if they have just started “dancing a little” in the middle of the robbery.

Flight of the Conchords can be a lot of fun, but its most important quality is perhaps its imagination. Characters, mostly aggressive Americans, often question facets of Bret and Jemaines’ masculinity. In response, they flee from the limitations of reality to songs that are often about their innermost feelings. They sing about crisis of confidence, male friendship and wanting to be David Bowie. It’s the opposite of toxic masculinity, and it’s the part of the show that has gotten even better with age. The bandmates have a very simple, candid perspective, and New York City’s greed and dirt never manage to change them.

It is therefore only natural that these guys have a hard time understanding the concept of a robbery. As John and Mickey chase them down with a knife, they finally realize that it’s not just a conversation. Jemaine’s velvet jacket is caught on a fence, and Bret runs after it, leaving behind his comrade. “I’m too scared, man!” he says bluntly.

Two days later, Bret returns to the alley with Murray and their epic American friend Dave (Arj Barker) on tow. Dave is wearing camouflage and carries what looks like a paintball machine gun. Jemaine has not been home for two days. “He may be dead,” Murray said in his New Zealand accent. “What was he doing, perhaps?” asks Dave. This exchange continues for a while – long enough for it to start to seem silly, and then circle back to hysterical.

The guys are reminiscent of Jemaine. He was always so helpful, Murray says. For example, he helped Bret when his head got stuck in a chair and when his hand was caught in a jar. “What a king asshole,” Dave says sadly, as if it’s a compliment. This scene is basically the opposite of one Saturday Night Live sketch. Instead of everyone killing one joke together, each actor is on a completely different comic and tonal wavelength. The result is disorienting fun. As the best pieces of The escape of Concord, it’s overlaid with super-fast jokes and dashes that you might not catch before your second or third viewing.

Meanwhile, Jemaine is in jail with John. The couple bond over the fact that their boyfriends both left them. John talks about shooting a guy and then learning that his friend had canceled the charge. Jemaine compares it to the time Bret lined him up in the cinema. They form a troubled bond. When Jemaine comes out, he is annoyed at Bret for having left him to die, but no one is particularly sympathetic. “Old news!” Murray half shouts for their next band meeting. “No one likes a moan!”

Jemaine goes out with John and his girlfriend. They shit-talk Bret, just so the camera can cut to a wider picture, revealing that Bret has been sitting with them all along. This is neither the first nor the last shot in the episode that comically reveals the presence of an unprecedented character. Somehow it gets more fun every time it happens.

Bret goes into overdrive and tries to make it up to Jemaine. In one montage, we see that he has written an apology on a sheet of paper, made his friend a cup of hot tea and baked him a pizza with his face on. Jemaine simply does not have it. He lets Bret scald himself with the tea and says he is not hungry for pizza. These guys may have a childish sense of innocence, but sometimes they’re just childish too.

As it becomes the norm in the series, the duo eventually make up via song. They break out in an obvious “Where Is The Love” parody called “Think About It”. They become poetic about topics they know nothing about, such as global health, fast fashion, and gangs of itinerant young people stabbing people with cutlery. The song, like the rest of the episode, makes for gentle fun with the very American panic surrounding street violence. When they reach the end of the song, they seem like a united front again. That’s good, because right then they meet Mickey and John again.

This time the two couples meet on good terms. Mickey gives them their camera phone back and even gets the pictures on it developed. They’re all from Bret and Jemaine hanging out – awww. Unfortunately, Mickey and John’s friendship did not go as well as Conchords’. The criminals had big dreams of kidnapping a rich child, but now John is stealing an old woman’s purse and Mickey is too depressed to be with.

It’s a tale of two friendships, but the illusion of common ground is shattered when Mickey invites the guys to a meeting with white supremacy. It is a shocking moment that puts an abrupt end to this surreal episode. We’ll never hear from John or Mickey again. Our naive heroes, who are forever untouched by life in the big city, decide to go for pizza instead.

Related topics: Episodes

Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV lover and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics’ Choice Association’s TV and documentary departments. Twitter: @aandeandval (She her)

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