This is basically a FBF at this point, sorry for the tardiness you guys! This week has been a little nuts with some awesome life changes and new writing opportunities. So excited but for now let’s get back to breakdowns! Since TV Writers posted my WCW for Kristen Schaal, and I focused on LAST MAN ON EARTH for this week’s breakdown, I thought I would continue the theme and honor the series that made people first really notice her: FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS.
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS aired on HBO for two seasons from 2007-2009 starring Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement as “themselves,” with Kristen Schaal as their number one/only fan Mel, and Rhys Darby as their manager Murray. Bret and Jermaine make the up the titular band and the series follows their daily shenanigans in mumble-core fashion with the occasionally break for a fitting song.
In the episode we will be breaking down, Bret has gotten himself a girlfriend and Jermaine is not coping well with it. In the series, Mel is woefully underutilized but when she is on display Schaal kills it every time.
Episodes typically have one storyline per episode so there will be no separation in this breakdown. Also, since this aired on HBO there are no commercial breaks to separate the episode into acts but you can see a clear delineation of that classic two act, sitcom structure.
SEASON ONE, EPISODE FOUR, “YOKO”
Murray wants to hang out with the guys. They both claim to have dates making them unavailable (only Bret has a real date, Jermaine is lying as he’s feeling left out).
Bret goes on a date with Coco (Sutton Foster). Jermaine sits nearby making the date very awkward.
Coco asks Bret to stay over. Jermaine says that would be weird but he will stay as well.
Bret works on a song to show Coco how much he cares for her. Jermaine listens for hours and gives Bret a list of notes several pages long.
Murray has a fan club meeting Mel. He quizzes her on how she feels about one of the guys having a girlfriend and no longer being available. Met initially plays it as though she is supportive, but she is clearly jealous.
Bret plays Coco his song (“If You’re Into It”). She seems to like it when Bret sings, but Jermaine arrives and sings explicit lyrics, making Coco uncomfortable again.
Bret and Coco want to go cycling together. Jermaine invites himself along to that as well as a series of other dates.
Jermaine asks Bret if they can do something on the date that he wants to do. Bret wants to go without Jermaine.
Jermaine admits to making a move on Coco. Bret says he can no longer join in.
Jermaine hangs out with Murray. Murray makes fun of Jermaine for third-wheeling.
Murray thinks they may have a “Yoko” trying to break up the band. Jermaine realizes he doesn’t know or trust Coco.
Jermaine asks Bret about Coco. He writes a song (“She-Wolf”) passive aggressively declaring his new opinions of Coco.
The band has a sit down with Murray. Murray tells Bret he should break up with Coco because it’s bad for the band. When Murray then asks how the relationship is going, when Bret has positive things to say, Murray then says that Coco is a “keeper.”
Coco arrives. She has made a poster for the band. Jermaine rejects it while Bret and Murray love it.
Coco tries to leave in the awkwardness but Murray and Bret insist she join the meeting.
Jermaine suggests Coco is Yoko. The group has a confrontation causing Coco to leave and Bret leaving the band.
Murray asks Jermaine if he misses Bret. Jermaine admits he does and goes in search of his friend.
Jermaine finds a goodbye letter from Bret. Jermaine and Bret sing (“Pencils in the Wind”) separately to lament their feelings with Jermaine eventually finding Bret and Coco and asking Bret to rejoin the band/break up with Coco.
Bret chooses Coco over the band. Jermaine concedes and lets Bret in the band anyway. They finish the song.
The episode has a clear protagonist: Jermaine. He doesn’t want to be left out and/or lose his best friend, Bret. The inciting incident is the very first scene when Bret says he has a date. Jermaine spends a little over half the episode focused on joining in on dates and clearly trying to make Coco uncomfortable. The goal is clear: break the couple up. The midpoint comes at minute 14 when Murray suggests that Coco is a “Yoko” trying to break up the band. Now while this is not in the exact middle of the episode, it is fairly close. The first half of the episode is all set up, ending with this beat about Yoko. The second half is all build up to the climax of the band breaking up not because of Coco/Yoko, but Jermaine’s own behavior. In the end he must concede his stubborn attitude and leave Coco and Bret’s relationship alone.
Something to note about this episode, and the series in general, is that the scenes are chock full of jokes but they move fairly quickly and organically come from the absurdity of the characters and the drama their stubborn attitudes create. With the exception of the band meeting in Act Two, most scenes only have one beat, occasionally two. Since the tone of the series is absurd but delivered with a mumbling deadpan, it would be easy to miss jokes if the series doesn’t have full an audience’s full focus. The quick scenes allow the pacing to feel faster and keep the story moving.
Kristen Schaal is given one short scene in this episode, a fan club meeting with Murray, but it contains more one liners than many of the other scenes. Between the fan club position titles, pictures for Mel to look through, and ultimately the discussion of Bret having a girlfriend and Jermaine never will… both Muray and Mel get to show off their amazingness and steal the show away from the two main characters for a just a moment. Honestly, if they had ever wanted to do a spin off with these two I would have been their number one-obsessed fan.
Well that’s it for this one. Time for me to take off after a very long day. Hope you all are making some great progress with your own projects!