January 1, 2013 at 12:20 am #267975
I’ve been watching the New Year’s marathon of “Portlandia” on IFC, and it’s pretty hilarious. Fred Armisen is much better used here than on “Saturday Night Live.” Carrie Brownstein is a real find too. The show recently had its Emmy breakthrough with nominations in Directing and Writing in a Variety Series, as well as being a Peabody Award winner.
The season 3 premiere airs on Friday, January 4, 2013 @ 10 PM ET on IFC. If other fans are around (new and old ones), we can keep up with the current season here and discuss past episodes.January 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm #267977
Portlandia: Season Three
* * * stars (out of four stars)
by Daniel Goldberg
Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia has amounted to a kind of frenzied pedicab tour of the city of Portland, Oregon by way of Apple Maps. Though residents of the city continue to debate whether or not the series is good for local tourism, cameos by mayor Sam Adams would seem to suggest a loving symbiosis between the city and its fictional depiction. Yet in the show’s third season, Armisen and Brownstein seek to expand both its audience and its relevance, making several excursions outside the city limits.
Portlandia uses titles at the start of each scene to inform viewers of its location, right down to the exact street address. This season’s first episode, however, opens, sans title, on a suburban cul-de-sac that resembles Portland about as much as it does the set of Desperate Housewives or Weeds. We could be anywhere, and that’s the point. Armisen and Brownstein are moving back home alongside many of their peers, victims of a global economic recession. They gather in the street and try to come up with a protest song, but each attempt somehow gets hijacked by dance beats and Ke$ha-inspired lyrics like “Change the world one party at a time/Mind-eraser shots with a hint of lime.” The failed demonstration draws the police, who make arrests by disguising their prison van as a “dance tent.” It’s one of the show’s most bitterly pointed sketches to date, and by excising Portland from the proceedings, Armisen and Brownstein implicate all of their viewers in a collective failure to sustain any kind of political dissent.
The series continues its somewhat more combative tone with respect to today’s youth in another music-related sequence set outside Portland’s city limits. Playing old-school punk “Gen Xers,” Armisen and Brownstein recruit Kurt Loder and other symbols of MTV’s heyday to “take back” the network from tweens. They head to Times Square and raid MTV’s headquarters, successfully taking over the airwaves from the head honcho, a world-weary tween girl, who coldly insists “music is dead.” The girl then goes on to point out the irony of nostalgia victims trying to “take back the youth-oriented channel from the youth.” Given that even the older generation refuses to tune in, she turns out to be right. By this point, the depiction of failed revolutions has already become one of the season’s winning comic routines.
When Armisen and Brownstein travel to Seattle in order to recruit new citizens to Portland at the mayor’s (Kyle MacLachlan) behest, their idealism is similarly thwarted. Armisen urges residents to raise their children under the “gospel of Portland,” encouraging the men to bring their bass guitars, but his appeals are ignored. As one resident insists, Seattle has “all the answers”: Kurt Kobain, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Space Needle. The only person who agrees to leave is Alexandra (Chloë Sevigny), a charming free spirit who, thanks to Armisen and Brownstein, is now jobless and homeless in an unknown city.
A jab at raw milk curdles on arrival, and the scene in which a girl spends her entire meditation class fantasizing about the man across from her feels like a joke we’ve already seen a dozen times, but these are exceptions to the rule. Portlandia‘s best gags instead all seem to embody a kind of post-Occupy disillusionment, and season three’s less provincial outlook ensures the show’s continued relevance. It’s less intensely fixated on the city from which the series derives its name, and Armisen and Brownstein’s willingness to expand the scope of its satire has ultimately led to something more sustainable, if a little less local.January 4, 2013 at 11:00 am #267978
Season premiere airs tonight with back-to-back episodes.
Episode Title: “Take Back MTV”
Synopsis: Iris and Spyke rustle up a gang of former MTV personalities in an attempt to wrestle the cable music channel from the tween set; Sandra develops a crush on a guy in her meditation class; Kath and Dave shoot a video about how to construct a tent.
Guest Stars: Kurt Loder, Matt Pinfield, Tabitha Soren
Episode Title: “Missionaries”
Synopsis: The mayor recruits Fred and Carrie to go door-to-door in Seattle to entice residents to relocate to Portland; a pedicab driver rustles up new riders; Peter and Nance make a stop at the Doily Shoppe in preparation for the opening of their bed and breakfast; Toni and Candace try to find out who is behind a negative online review of their bookstore.
Guest Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Kyle MacLachlan, Martina Navratilova, Chloe Sevingy
Discuss.January 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm #267979
Tabitha Soren?!?!?!? I’m in 90s freakout mode.January 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm #267980
Well, those were fun. Welcome back, Portlandia. Chloe Sevingy was sporting her American Horror Story hair-do. Either that, or she was sporting her Portlandia hair-do on AHS. That spoiler-alert segment…. heh.January 6, 2013 at 10:43 am #267981
I think my favorite out of all of the show’s “residents” is the Women and Women First ladies. Fred Armisen in drag always gets me laughing, and the tinge of lunacy with that character is a great touch. Nice first two episodes. The opening of the first one was kind of weird, but the “take back MTV” plot gathered steam later on. Loved seeing those MTV personalities again. Tabitha Soren looked amazing. I grew up with all of those guys (not the original five though): Soren, Loder, Kennedy, Pinfield, Alison Stewart, Dave Holmes, Julie Brown, Carson Daly (UGH), etc. That line about the irony of the old guys taking back the youth channel from the youth was great. The yoga sketch was another interesting one that didn’t go the way I thought it would. Nice use of the guest stars, especially Kyle MacLachlan (the most likeable I’ve seen him in years), Jeff Goldblum, and Chloe Sevingy (too bad about the hair though; I miss her back-length ponytail). I’m still warming up to the show and catching up on past episodes, but it’s definitely a keeper and one of those shows that I know I should have been watching from the beginning but didn’t for some reason or another. Better late than never, as they say. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the season. This makes up for so much of the nonsense Fred Armisen does on “SNL.” Carrie Brownstein is a refreshing discovery.January 7, 2013 at 10:39 am #267982
I watched some Portlandia episodes with friends a few months back and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. On SNL, Fred annoys me greatly. But his weirdness works much better here than on SNL. Carrie is pitch perfect as well. Can’t watch to watch the new episodes!January 7, 2013 at 11:45 am #267983
I really enjoy this show. Some segments fall flat, of course, but that’s to be expected. But those that hit the mark are pretty funny. I like seeing guest stars such as MacLachlan and Goldblum in recurring roles. And I agree that Armisen is more fun here, and I love Brownstein.January 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm #267984
Episode Title: “Squiggleman”
Synopsis: Concerned parents pull together a band that plays music for children; the Portland Nerd Council produces a public service announcement; a couple have an uneasy lunch at a vegan restaurant; the Feminist Bookstore holds a comedy night.