The 2008 NFL season was one for believers. Who would have believed that Kerry Collins would be more relevant than Tom Brady? Who would have believed that a 4-8 team left for dead would become a 9-8 team advancing to the second round of the playoffs? Who would have believed that Brett Favre would actually get his due criticism for playing like crap? Who would have believed that the star wide receiver of the defending Super Bowl champions would take a gun to a nightclub in the waistband of his sweatpants and subsequently shoot himself in the leg? As the 2009 NFL playoffs move forward, eight teams remain, trying to make believers out of a growing group of football fans.
Giants vs. Eagles
The NFC East has been arguably the best division in football throughout the year, even when considering late-season struggles for both the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. With that in mind, it's no surprise that two NFC East squads meet in the second round of the playoffs. The Eagles have considerable experience in advancing to (and more often than not, losing in) the NFC Championship game. The Giants, meanwhile, are the defending Super Bowl Champions. However, while the Giants flew under the radar last season, even as they made their way to the Super Bowl, they are more appropriately regarded this season.
As the only remaining NFC team that made the playoffs last season, the Giants have the most recent experience in this type of situation.
Unfortunately, the Giants are also the only team missing one of its best players. For all the distractions that Plaxico Burress might have caused, the wide receiver was nonetheless the source of much-needed swagger for a team with a quarterback in Eli Manning who is about as intimidating as Mike from the Life cereal box.
The Eagles have been on one of the biggest rolls in the NFL, particularly since the benching and subsequent re-emergence of quarterback Donovan McNabb. With running back Brian Westbrook healthy and a group of receivers 'mdash;including rookie Desean Jackson 'mdash; that is the best since the ill-fated days of Terrell Owens, the Eagles have enough offensive weapons to compete with any team in the league. After losing to the Giants in week 10, the Eagles come into this game with the confidence of having defeated New York on the road during their week 14 rematch.
Westbrook remains the single most explosive player on either team. However, the Giants counter with not a single back, but three in the Earth, Wind and Fire (or Cube, Dre and oft-forgotten M.C. Ren for N.W.A. fans) tandem. The difference should then come down to defense, and while Brian Dawkins leads a strong Philadelphia effort, emerging superstar Justin Tuck has made up for Michael Strahan's retirement and should help the Giants continue their playoff winning streak.
Joe goes with: Giants 24, Eagles 20.
Panthers vs. Cardinals
When the Panthers pulled off a miraculous last-second win in week one, they had given themselves either the start of a season-long reclamation project, or simply an early adrenaline rush that would turn into their season's only highlight. Quarterback Jake Delhomme, returning from injury, and wide receiver Steve Smith, returning from a one-game suspension after punching teammate Ken Lucas in the face, helped Carolina achieve the former. With DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart teaming up in the backfield to produce the hottest duo in Carolina since John Edwards' affair, the Panthers stormed all the way to the NFC's second seed and a first-round bye. While their team makeup looks solid, especially with Julius Peppers again proving dominant on the defensive line, their season is marked with less-than-spectacular victories. While its season included a 34-0 romp against the Kansas City Chiefs and a 24-9 win against the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina allowed 22 points to the Detroit Lions, scored only three in a loss to the Bucs and was killed, 45-28, in a rematch against Atlanta.
The good news for the Panthers is that they are facing the Arizona Cardinals who, prior to their win last week against the Falcons, limped into the playoffs with losses in four of their final six games. Arizona benefited from playing in a division in which it got dual wins over the Seahawks, Rams and Niners. Kurt Warner has looked amazing at times, but also mistake-prone and is always just one hit away from fumbling the entire game. The defense was surprisingly stout and disciplined against the Falcons, but on the road might return to its over-aggressive ways that allowed opponents to score 20 points or more in 11 games and resulted in a 56-35 loss at the Jets and a 47-7 devastation at the Patriots.
Warner and the Arizona offense might be able to stay close in a battle of former NFL Europe quarterbacks. However, the Panthers present a more complete team. Having already defeated the Cardinals during their regular season matchup in London, Carolina has shown the ability to overcome a big passing day from Warner and still pick up the victory. With the added benefit of home-field advantage, the Panthers should be able to end the Cardinals season before people in Arizona start expecting something out of their football team.
Joe goes with: Panthers 38, Cardinals 28.
Titans vs. Ravens
As the last undefeated team in the NFL, the Titans were the beneficiaries of much-deserved regular season recognition following early season turmoil after the meltdown of former Rookie of the Year and Madden Cover quarterback Vince Young. With a punishing defense, an explosive rookie running back in Chris Johnson and a veteran quarterback who knows how to run an offense wi
thout committing game-killing mistakes, the Titans seemed to have a Super Bowl-worthy recipe. In fact, it's the same recipe that the Baltimore Ravens employed when they won Super Bowl XXXV in 2000. While Jamal Lewis might have resembled LenDale White in size more so than Johnson, both teams relied on a defense-first philosophy that worked in the regular season and for Baltimore proved punishing in the playoffs.
These Baltimore Ravens have been compared favorably to their 2000 counterparts. While not as dominating defensively as the Super Bowl-winning squad, the team still has a dominant secondary led by a Pro Bowl safety (this time Ed Reed instead of Rod Woodson), a strong line with a huge body in the middle (the way-more-fun-to-say Haloti Ngata instead of Sam Adams), and Ray Lewis serving as the heart, soul and mouthpiece, even if he's not replicating his Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP season from 2000. Furthermore, using the running back trio of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain has allowed the Ravens' offense added flexibility on the other side of the ball, even if offense still remains Baltimore's weakest link.
The biggest difficulty for the Titans is that other teams are now more prepared than they were at the start of the season for the Tennessee style. Playing that style against a team equally intent on controlling the clock can also be difficult. While it's risky to trust a rookie quarterback as the Ravens have done this year with Joe Flacco, minimizing his attempts will also minimize his opportunities to make mistakes. Tennessee also must realize that its defensive line with post-injury Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch is not as controlling as the pre-injury version. The year might no longer be 2000. It's Flacco and not Dilfer on the other sideline. Instead of proclaiming herself 'Bootylicious,' Beyonc'eacute; is now punching midgets in the face. Mel Gibson cares less about 'What Women Want' and more about stealing dreidels and commenting upon the sugar content of female officers' 'breasticles.' The year may have changed, but the Ravens still know how to punish Kerry Collins.
Joe goes with: Ravens 16, Titans 13.
Steelers vs. Chargers
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, having a first-round bye and being the favorite to advance to the AFC Championship game should come as no surprise. After being upset in last season's playoffs by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers have been strong both offensively and defensively. Despite injuries to running back Willie Parker, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and lacking depth after the season-ending injury to rookie Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh continued to roll throughout the season with all four of their losses coming against playoff teams and only one, a 31-14 defeat at Tennessee, appearing lopsided. James Harrison is the first defensive player in a long time to receive legitimate MVP-hype after leading the league's best defensive unit, and even Mewelde Moore was able to find success behind the Steelers' offensive line.
For the San Diego Chargers, things were not supposed to go this way. After beginning the season as a popular Super Bowl pick, the Chargers sputtered to a 4-8 record and seemed destined for an early first-round pick and the merciful end of the Norv Turner Era. However, after rolling off five straight wins, including two straight elimination game victories in the regular season finale over the Denver Broncos and in the playoffs against the Colts, San Diego is just two wins away from what could be its first Super Bowl appearance since 1994. Phillip Rivers trumped Dan Fouts for the best season by a quarterback in team history and simultaneously proved his Pro Bowl worth, saving Turner's job.
The Chargers no doubt have momentum on their side and the team is finally playing up to its talent level and somewhat meeting expectations. Unfortunately, no matter how great he has looked recently and how hard Chargers fans might try to convince themselves otherwise, Darren Sproles is not LaDainian Tomlinson. Even if the Steelers have to play with Byron Leftwich instead of Ben Roethlisberger, the Chargers are at a greater disadvantage playing with Sproles instead of LT. San Diego's greatest shot is if its team keeps playing with the same what-do-we-have-to-lose mentality against what might be an overly confident Pittsburgh squad. The only upside is that if the Chargers lose, maybe they can still get rid of Norv Turner.
Joe goes with: Steelers 28, Chargers 27.
I’m having a really hard time persuading people like you that I’m a genius. It’s surprising how much effort it takes to convince people of something so obvious. But I think I’ve finally found a way. It’s gonna take some time, a little investment and a little trust, but it’s the only sure-fire way to get you to believe. All I need is for you to keep in mind that, in the summer of 2010, Scott Pilgrim is gonna be a big fucking deal. And when this happens, just remember: I called it first.
So what is Scott Pilgrim, and why does it matter so much? Let’s see. To begin, Scott Pilgrim is the greatest fucking thing to happen to comics and print media for many, many years. The last time such an overwhelming phenomenon enveloped our tiny lives was when X-Men hit the big screen and Watchmen made it to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best novels of all time.
But don’t make the mistake of believing Scott Pilgrim has some lofty philosophical or existential meaning. It’s more like the embodiment of our generation — ours being the young twentysomethings raised on Mario, Pokemon and Nintendo with both a lust and fear for life, aimlessly searching for purpose and direction without an inkling of what it might be. This comic is made for us, by us, to speak for us. It’s the closest thing we will ever have to an all-encompassing identity.
OK, so I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but I maintain that Pilgrim is representative of our generation (at least in terms of alternative pop culture). The comic depicts everyday problems without sacrificing any of the cultural memes it’s wrapped in. For instance, what would you do before meeting an ex? You save at a save point! Or, what’s the one thing stopping you from entering someone’s heart? The password!
You can look at everything objectively and disregard your dilemmas as the mere stuff of whining, but, in actuality, your problems are much more severe than anyone else’s. The real trouble in life is emotional baggage, which is precisely where the comic excels. Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers’ seven evil ex-boyfriends might be the best metaphor for relationships and emotional baggage that I’ve ever seen, heard or read in any print media. Aside from the fact that it brilliantly compares every arc of a relationship to a trial in a video game, it begs the question: What happens after you defeat the final exboyfriend? What happens when there’s no one left to fight anymore? Do you yourself become the evil ex-boyfriend?
Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that, and the genius of the comic lies in its exploration of these messy dynamics. All the characters in the story — and their conflicts, their passions, their hopes, their fears, etc. — are things we can irrefutably relate to. If you have it in you to accuse a character of being an asshole, then you’ve probably been one as well.
I can go on about how one character represents naive angst or how another represents transitional abandonment — there’s so much to dissect. And I realize that all I’m really doing is saying how awesome it is, over and over. But when the movie adaptation comes out next summer, you’re gonna want to know why it’s so awesome. And then, when you read the comic, you’ll understand. I don’t want you to be like everyone else, just following some trend. I want you to laugh like you’re in on a secret. So find Scott Pilgrim, and read it. Before it’s too late.
After a moment of silence for Eleanor Roosevelt College Freshman Senator Stephanie Usry, who is recovering in Wyoming after a car accident, the A.S. Council moved to a question-and-answer session with Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary R. Ratcliff.
Ratcliff first provided the council with an update on the Student Center and Price Center expansions, informing them that all construction is currently on schedule. He also expressed satisfaction that student services had not been restricted at either location.
'From October and November, we've seen no impact on sales at the food court in light of the construction,' Ratcliff said.
He also reported that following negotiations, Subway and Expresso Roma Cafe have agreed to stay open until 2 a.m. The new hours will be implemented in the coming weeks.
Keeping several eateries open for late-night dining was a recommendation taken from the Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction report.
'We're also working with the Transportation and Parking Services to ascertain student needs for late-night parking,' Ratcliff said.
Earl Warren College Junior Senator Daniel Palay asked for an update on Porter's Pub's expiring lease.
'After the lease expires, Porter's will go to a month-to-month lease,' Ratcliff said.
Ratcliff also mentioned that the University Centers Advisory Board asked Porter's to submit a proposal outlining plans to remodel the space and address some operational issues. If after review the board approves, the lease will be extended another five years.
A.S. President Harry Khanna asked the vice chancellor about the status of the 'Koala situation.'
Ratcliff answered that after two missed opportunities to appeal, the Koala office possessions have been put in storage, the locks changed and the office reassigned to Mock Trial and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.
After the question-and-answer session concluded, Khanna reported that if the athletic fee referendum passes, only the current fee of $31.08 will be adjusted by the California Price Index for inflation, not the additional fee proposed by the referendum.
Toward the end of the council meeting, Thurgood Marshall College Junior Senator Kyle Samia asked to pull from committee the issue of Mock Trial splitting into three organizations to request more funding, because as distinct entities the organizations are entitled to be funded separately. After several councilmembers objected, the council took a vote, which ended with a tie. A.S. Speaker and Earl Warren College Senior Senator Michelle Yetter broke the tie in favor of the motion.
Thurgood Marshall College Senior Senator Adam Gardner observed an inconsistency in the discussion.
'I don't understand what we're going to vote on,' Gardner said. 'If it passed by consensus in finance and finance makes up half of the council, then isn't it going to pass anyway?'
After several more minutes of discussion to determine a course of action if a similar situation arises, the motion carried to support financing the organizations.
In an effort to streamline publication, editors of the Guardian have approved changes to the paper’s constitution, including the addition of a Business Oversight Committee.
The Guardian Executive Board voted 17-0-0 in favor of the amendments at a Feb. 21 meeting. Voting members included all editors and the paper’s business manager, a university career employee. Among other duties, the board is vested by the paper’s constitution with authority to set paper operating policies.
“The reasons behind the changes are to make the goals of the editorial and business as one,” Editor in Chief Clayton Worfolk said. “Changes such as the Business Oversight Committee are the first step toward doing that.”
The committee will provide “official oversight, supervision and governance of the business department,” according to the new amendments. Virtually every business aspect will be supervised by the committee, including ratifying the newspaper’s annual budget, determining the size and structure of the business department and working with the business manager to set advertising sales goals.
Approved amendments to the constitution set the membership of the Business Oversight Committee to include the Guardian editor in chief, managing editors, business manager and an administrator from the university’s Student Life business office. The editor in chief may also move to add members to the committee with approval by a majority vote of the Executive Board.
The changes also removed the business manager from the Executive Board.
Previously, the business manager alone was responsible for making staff employment decisions as well as handling advertising administration. Both of those tasks will be shared with the Business Oversight Committee under the updated constitution. All voting members on the committee will be students, except the business manager.
The structure of the committee could be successful, according to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson. While student-operated and self-supporting, the paper is an administrative unit within Watson’s department.
“Businesses should be very much a learning experience for students, so they’re never going to run as efficiently as nonstudent-run businesses, but that’s not saying all nonstudent-run businesses run very well,” he said. “But I think in the experience of UCSD, situations allowing students to be involved with business sides [have] served as a good learning experience and allowed the business to function quite effectively in terms of providing a service and remaining financially viable. It’s my hope that the Guardian is able to achieve both.”
Changes to the Guardian financial structure were suggested in the hope of boosting ailing finances, which have forced the newspaper to publish smaller issues, Worfolk said.
“The newspaper has dropped in page numbers as a reflection of our budget,” he said. “We hope that an entity such as the Business Oversight Committee will allow us to maximize what we want this paper to be.”
According to its annual financial reports, revenues of the newspaper have dropped over the past four years, causing it to lose almost $60,000 last year.
The Guardian is funded by advertising, which students often misunderstand, according to Advertising Director Michael Foulks, a university career employee.
“We receive no aid from A.S. or the university,” he said.
In order to maintain a fiscally sustainable balance of content, the publication has created a 50-percent split between advertising and editorial space, Foulks said. However, due to heavy advertising competition from other bodies, the Guardian has suffered financial losses, which has created less room for editorial content.
“An ideal situation would be with the Guardian being the show and being all there is,” Foulks said. “But with every week, it seems that there are more and more entities where people on campus and merchants can direct their advertising money.”
While revenues have been declining, the situation is hopeful, Foulks said.
“I’ve been around this place for a while and things usually ebb and flow,” he said. “The economy always goes up and down, which kind of reflects the newspaper. ... Now we’re in a bit of a down period.”
However, a lack of communication has posed a problem for the paper, said Assistant Business Manager Emilee Schumer, a student.
“The financial side and editorial side of the Guardian have been very separate,” she said. “Operating that way has not been very beneficial.”
Although the new Business Oversight Committee will serve as a conduit between the student-run editorial and mostly adult-operated business parts of the paper, the areas will remain divided, Worfolk said.
“Now there will be a line of connection between the goals of the Executive Board and business staff,” he said. “There has always been a wall between the two, and we realize now that the two need to be interrelated. This board is a unifying element, but we recognize that the wall between the two sides is still important.”
The new policies require the committee to communicate regularly with the Executive Board and “alert the board to all unexpected changes to the fiscal health of the paper.”
In the highly dramatic film ""The Hours,"" director Stephen Daldry, successfully brings to life David Hare's screenplay based on the elaborate novel by Michael Cunningham. The story follows the intertwined lives of three women from three different time periods -- a writer, a housewife and an editor -- who are all experiencing similar breakdowns as their fears and yearnings cause them to question the meanings of their lives.
The film is primarily character-driven, focusing most of its attention on the inner turmoil of the lives of the three women and their response to it. In fact, each character's life is fully represented in a single day, in which each one engages in her usual daily routine and is simultaneously forced to deal with feelings of depression that are gnawing at her. Thus, it suffices to say that without strong performances by the three lead actresses, the movie would not work terribly well. Fortunately, the actresses completely delve into the complexity of their characters, creating three intricately different personas, each filled with conflicting realistic emotions and with a vitality that drives the whole film.
Leading the pack and serving as a backbone for the film is the author Virginia Woolf, portrayed with vivacity by a completely unrecognizable Nicole Kidman. Her story takes place in Sussex, England, during the 1920s and ends with the final shot of her suicide in 1941. During the 1920s, the author struggled with her own insanity while trying to write the novel ""Mrs. Dalloway,"" which would later become one of her most celebrated works. Kidman is dazzling as the strong, complicated Woolf, who fully realizes that she has a choice: either live a fuller life by feeding her creative talent at the expense of being pulled further into insanity, or lead a passive, uneventful, but longer life.
Kidman successfully embodies Woolf not just physically -- although the prosthetic nose, gray, dull wig, and the deep, seemingly uncaring, but at the same time meaningful voice certainly add to the overall effect -- but mentally and emotionally as well. When she is deeply gazing toward the camera in what seems to be part highly intellectual, stimulating thought and part descent into what can only be defined as madness, Kidman perfectly captures an introverted writer who is fully unable to handle the world outside of her novels.
In a strange sequence in which Woolf forces a passionate kiss upon her sister, Vanessa (Miranda Richardson, well-suited to the role of a mother who is stable and completely devoted to her three children), who comes for a visit from London, Kidman handles Woolf's confused emotions with care. She makes Woolf's gesture seem like a plea to be freed from the confines of the country home and from the insanity that causes her exclusion from London, where she creatively thrives but mentally disintegrates. Even in her relationship with her husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane, solidly portraying a caring and devoted man who truly cares for his ailing wife), it is clear that she loves and respects him, but there is still a certain distance seemingly caused by her fragile mind.
Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is a pregnant mother living in Los Angeles after World War II who in the process of reading the novel ""Mrs. Dalloway"" is inspired to drastically change her life. Moore brings humanity to Brown and provides an explanation for the character's selfish and unfair actions. From the outset, it is obvious that Brown does not fully fit into her domestic position as homemaker and wife. Throughout her day -- during which she tries to make a cake for her husband's birthday, considers ending her life and talks about motherhood with a friend -- her discontentment and disconnection with what is going on around her is very apparent. With subtle facial movements, Moore ideally latches on to the character's longing, and her ultimate, desperate decision.
The most poignant sequences, and probably the most difficult for Moore (who has three children of her own), are the interactions between Brown and her son Richie (Jack Rovello).
The more Richie, who senses that there is something wrong with his mother, questions her love for him and tries to stay with her, the more she pushes him away while vocally trying to comfort him. These moments are quite disturbing, but at the same time brilliantly executed.
The third woman is Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), a modern version of Woolf's character, Mrs. Dalloway, who lives in New York in 2001. Vaughan is furiously working to prepare a party for her friend Richard (Ed Harris), a great and difficult poet who is dying of AIDS. Vaughan also struggles with finding meaning in her life while she goes to purchase flowers; shares an intimate and tense conversation with Richard and Richard's ex-boyfriend, Louis Waters (Jeff Daniels); and interacts with her live-in girlfriend, Sally Lester (Allison Janney), and her daughter, Julia (Claire Danes).
Through Vaughan, Streep is able to create yet another varied character who is also questioning her life. During her long, strenuous day, the character suffers two over-the-top but understandable emotional breakdowns, which Streep displays with ease and makes completely fitting for the nervous, uptight persona she portrays.
Harris stands out with his performance as a destructive, hard-to-deal-with genius poet who is himself struggling with inner demons while the end of his life nears. The actor seems to have found a niche playing brilliant, difficult artists (he also got rave reviews as the struggling painter Jackson Pollock in ""Pollock"").
The connections between the three women are made clear in well-edited and flowing transition sequences, as well as during a marvelous revelatory sequence toward the end of the film when the characters somewhat come to terms with their yearnings.
Overall, the film is a fantastic enterprise that is worth seeing because of the interesting philosophical questions that it raises, the powerful and moving way in which the dramatic issues are probed and explored, and the amazing cast that bring such intelligence, complexity and depth to their characters that it is compelling to watch them undergo their inner struggles.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore
In theaters Jan. 17
The UCSD women's tennis team picked up two wins last week, knocking off California State University Los Angeles 8-1 last Saturday before beating crosstown contender Alliant International University 9-0 Tuesday afternoon.
In the meeting between two California Collegiate Athletic Association teams, the Tritons easily disposed of the Golden Eagles of Cal State Los Angeles.
Kristina Jansen led UCSD, teaming with Jasmin Dao to win their No. 3 doubles match 8-0 over Michele Gee and Charys Scolton. Jansen then knocked off Gee in the No. 5 singles match 6-0, 6-0.
Julie Westerman also prevailed in her singles match without losing a game, defeating Scolton in the No. 6 match.
Despite the outstanding Triton play, the story of the meet was the No. 1 singles match, which paired freshman Dao against Los Angeles' Tamra Encina. Dao lost the first three games, making it apparent something was wrong. Dao retired after the third game, conceding the match to Encina.
Riding the wave of the victory over CSULA, UCSD headed down Miramar Road to take on Alliant International University.
AIU, which finished 15th in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics last year, ran into a surging Triton squad, handily defeated their neighbors to the east.
Four players made their 2002 season debut for the Tritons against AIU, each picking up wins.
Sophomore Stephanie Moriarty didn't lose a game in her No. 5 singles match, defeating Carmen Push in her debut. Freshman Barbie Duncan made her collegiate debut by beating Sarah Riedwig 6-1, 6-1 in No. 6 singles play.
Despite the easy team win, UCSD did lose its first set of the season when the lone Triton senior, Lyndsey Tadlock, dropped the first set in a tiebreaker to Rebecca Tornquist. Tadlock came back to win the second set in a tiebreaker before dominating the third and deciding set, winning 6-0.
On the doubles side, the Tritons lost only two games in three matches with Fany Setiyo and Sarah Bahlert -- both making their 2002 debut -- defeating their No. 3 singles opponent 8-0.
UCSD is now 3-0 and leads the CCAA with a 2-0 conference record. Next up for the Tritons is a meet against Division III Claremont College on Feb. 9. The following Wednesday, Feb. 13, the women's tennis team makes its home debut against another San Diego college, Point Loma Nazarene, at 2:30 p.m. at UCSD's North Courts.
Flight of the Conchords
I Told You I Was Freaky
Two years ago, Flight of the Conchords burst onto the scene as New Zealand’s greatest export since, well, ever. The folk-pop/hip-hop/rock duo mixed bone-dry wit with an impressively eclectic palette of beats to earn cult status with an acclaimed HBO season. Genius-imbued songs like “A Kiss is Not a Contract” and “If You’re into It” destined these self-deprecating hipsters for prolonged stardom.
In contrast, the Conchords’ latest album release, I Told You I Was Freaky, is a frustrating, disappointing listen for any diehard.
The story goes that Season One’s episodes were written around tour-tested material, making the show more of a musical comedy than a sitcom with music. After a successful first run, HBO extended the Conchords’ contract and asked Brett McKenzie and Jemaine Clement to come up with a slew of new songs and plotlines. Judging by Freaky, it seems the Hiphopopotamus and Rhymenoceros weren’t up to the task.
This sophomore slump lacks the variation — and virtuoso — of the first season’s musical grab bag, instead churning out one unfunny dud after another. “I Got Hurt Feelings,” a rap anthem playing up the pair’s sentimentality, is quirky as ever, but continually loops the same boring, Garage Band-beginner production. While jokes about testicles should carry the Conchords with ease, “Sugalumps” relies too much on equally generic electro-pop straight off Fergie’s cutting-room floor, stuffing our stockings with lumps of coal like “All these bitches checkin’ out my britches.” Come on, gents, you’re better than that.
McKenzie and Clement are extremely talented musicians, but we’re hard-pressed to find a single track on their latest that’s not performed by a synthesizer. Rare cuts like “You Don’t Have to Be a Prostitute” — which melds the Police’s “Roxanne” with Ziggy Marley reggae — reveal flashes of the Conchords of old, but are soon buried in the rubble.
Their previous hits played off the banality of a struggling two-man novelty band living in Manhattan, but Conchords’ the new tracks offer nothing more than moderately amusing dialogue over uninspired beats. The only real option now is to pretend that they gracefully retired after the first season, bowing out as legends and never getting the chance to disappoint on their second time around.