portlandia: s01e01
  • WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2011

  • Posted by: Matt Howard

We're going to be recapping the first season of joint music/hipster interest IFC show Portlandia. This is a fair trade column.

"Portland is where young people go to retire."

It's not all that often that a new television series is placed in the Friday night line-up. Fresh shows generally follow a successful program mid-week. IFC is not known for following the trends, and their newest original series has been positioned in the slot where TV shows go to die. There must be reasoning behind their audacity.

Surrounded by beloved indie-series of the past, Portlandia must have something to offer to the IFC faithful. Airing at 10:30, the 6-part, short-based comedy series follows Arrested Development reruns and the Onion News Network. At 11:00, reruns of cult-followed Mr. Show airs. Portlandia rests comfortably in the center of this Big-Mac of eccentricity.

Created, written, and staring Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (vocalist/guitarist, WILD FLAG, Sleater-Kinney), Portlandia is being referenced by many as a regional comedy. The Pacific Northwest is well known for its liberal, organic-junkie inhabitants. Armisen and Brownstein make it apparent that there might be something in the coffee. Although it's a direct bash of Portland's citizens, those of us outside the territory of mist and flannel are no less familiar with the smug.

Those of the liberal-bourgeois culture, a contradiction in itself, don't oppress others through capitalism, they just "think" that they're superior. In the first episode, Armisen and Brownstein take aim at the numerous opinionated and stubborn subdivisions. Feminists and vegans beware, you're being ridiculed, and it's awesome.

The true humor is found in the reality of it all. These people surround us, and Portlandia's impersonations of them are spot on. Outwardly criticizing the critical is always pleasurable, as is seeing Fred Armisen in a blouse and a wig. A quiet cameo by the Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, who ironically played the fictional mayor's assistant, made the line separating fact and fiction ever more faint.

Portlandia will be The Jersey Shore, of the Pacific Northwest. Both programs create a mockery out of their cultural and regional settings. It's possible that Portland natives will welcome the satire of themselves. But if they don't, that makes it even more enjoyable.

Check out this Portlandia clip, "Feminist Bookstore", with an appearance from Steve Buscemi!


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