January 6, 2012


Those who listen to "The Small Screen Podcast" or read my thoughts on Grimm and Leverage know that I'm a total shill for Portland, so it may surprise some that my feelings are mixed when it comes to IFC's Portlandia.

Admittedly, I knew about Portlandia for a while before I actually watched it, mostly because I didn't have IFC, but I tried to keep up with the satirical sketch comedy show during its first season. Luckily, I was able to catch up on Netflix prior to premiere of Season 2. Almost immediately, I found myself laughing at how Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein captured the vibe and characters of Stumptown (that opening song and the bicyclist sketch were spot on), and I thought I had found a new favorite show. Then things started to change.

Now, I dug all of the eccentric characters that were sprinkled throughout the vignettes, but I wasn't as big of a fan when some of those characters became regulars and started to overpower the show. For example, the two women in the feminist bookstore got grating very quickly, and it's hard to watch their scenes. I also started to see a shift from a focus on quirky characters to outrageous situations (like Aimee Mann being a maid and the music/film festival), and that also started to annoy me. Somewhere along the line the show stopped feeling like a commentary on a city, and started to be a farce about unrelatable caricatures and scenarios.

To the show's credit, I did appreciate the attempt at creating a common thread that connected the episodes via the Fred and Carrie characters. The fact that they're supposed to somewhat realistic people who are faced with extraordinary circumstances cuts some of the outright peculiarness of the rest of the show. Although they too are starting to veer into the overblown zone.

Sure, I might be too hard on Portlandia's over reliance on odd people and plots because that's what the show is supposed to be about. It's a hyper-satirized version of a city and its inhabitants, and it is trying to take an old genre into new places, which I respect. I just wish I found myself laughing more instead of cringing.


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