By Ken Tucker
Updated March 25, 2009 at 07:23 PM EDT

The ratings are in for the season-enders of the HBO Sunday-night comedies Flight of the Conchords and Eastbound & Down, and I’m a little surprised and mighty pleased to see that underdog Eastbound scored the higher ratings (904,000 vs. 678,000). Don’t get me wrong: I admire the droll musical-comics Bret and Jemaine, but I did think this season of Conchords was a bit off. The songs weren’t quite up to last season’s quality, and the plotlines were a tad more predictable.

On the other hand, Eastbound & Down finished with a strong surge of quality. Danny McBride’s down-and-out baseball pitcher Kenny Powers was (ugh, do I really have to write this?: SPOILER ALERT!) called up by the majors again… or so he thought. For a comedy as assiduously profane as Eastbound is, it’s also got a lotta heart. I was genuinely moved when Kenny found out his regained dream was smashed once again, and yet he had to go through the Kenny Powers-patented motions of leaving town in a roar of bravado. I was even more moved by the sad face of April (the wondrous Katy Mixon) when Kenny left her and her suitcase in the dust as he fled from a convenience store in his car.

Last season, Conchords still seemed like a breath of fresh air with its low-key, very welcome gentle humor, and it gained a lot of hip pop-culture cachet. But Eastbound & Down, conceived as nobody’s idea of “cool,” ended up showing us that vulgar comedy can still do lots of sutble things, and few things on TV so far this year have matched McBride’s portrait of a working-class guy trying to make it after imploding.

How about you? Did you watch either of these shows? Do you like the contrasting comedy styles of Conchords and Eastbound, or do you have a clear favorite?