Portlandia is a sketch series from IFC which parodies the hipster utopia of Portland, Oregon. The show stars Saturday Night Live‘s Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney‘s Carrie Brownstein. Portlandia centers (I use this term loosely!) around a couple who have recently relocated to Portland from Los Angeles. Brownstein and Armisen play a variety of different roles that poke fun at a wide variety of trendy hipsters ranging from vegans, dumpster divers, artists and environmentalists.
Portlandia‘s had a relatively short six episode stint for its first season. I caught a few episodes of the series when it first screened but didn’t end up sticking with it because I found it quite uneven. Often I find it better to sit down with an entire season of a show to let it grow more effectively on me. While the show still didn’t blow me away I appreciated it a lot more and found it quite unique and interesting especially compared to the majority of recent comedy programs. Like a lot of sketch shows there’s enough variety to find something in it funny and you don’t have to sit through a painfully unfunny premise for too long unlike a standard sitcom.
My favourite of the reoccurring characters was definitely the couple who ran the feminist bookstore. I thought they got the holier than thou and somewhat hypocritical personalities of a lot these people down to a tee. I had a chuckle to myself when they had to constantly go off to find change for the till because I’ve seen it happen in many second hand record and book stores in my time that have been run by totally disorganized people. Steve Buscemi finds himself trapped in the store when he just wanted to pop in quickly and use the bathroom which for me was one of the better scenes in the series. The dumpster diver couple with their overly frugal lifestyle was quite well done too I thought. It got the stereotypical view of what most people think when they hear of people getting their food and other items from a bin. Of course the reality is different and I’ve benefited at times from friends who have rummaged thought the dumpsters at the back of a supermarket but it still was an effective parody especially since its become a more prominent trend due to the media. Kyle MacLachlan was great as the mayor of Portland who ends up missing and was one of the better celebrity appearances in the show. Heather Graham’s stint in the feminist bookstore’s journaling class was pretty funny too.
Portlandia‘s humor may not be everyone’s cup to tea. I found it quite hit and miss but there certainly were moments of greatness mainly due to Armisen and Brownstein’s great chemistry. They really bounce of each other to be an effective duo manically driving the at times absurd humour to frenzied levels. I’d definitely recommend Portlandia to those who have grown tired of the standard comedy shows littering our screens and are looking for something a little more quirky and different. I recommend perhaps renting his one before purchasing it to see if it’s your thing.
The disc is rounded off with extended/deleted scenes, bloopers and a commentary throughout the episodes. Probably the most interesting and worthwhile feature in the extras was the Thunderant videos which were the pre-Portlandia comedy sketches which the show eventuated from. These videos were a lot more risqué and definitely not in the safe for TV mode Portlandia took. There’s also a sneak preview for the second season which has just begun screening in the States.
- Extended/deleted scenes
- Comedy Sketches
- Season 2 Preview
Portlandia Season One is also available on Blu-ray and can be purchased by clicking here.