Created by and starring Fred Armisen (of Saturday Night Live fame) and Carrie Brownstein (the guitarist for alt-rock band Sleater-Kinney), the third season of Portlandia continues to take us on a satirical trip through Portland, Oregon and the alternative subcultures which it is home to. With 10 episodes (plus the winter special) spread over two discs, Brownstein and Armisen use the sketch comedy narrative format to simultaneously poke fun at and homage the left-of-field characters which can be found in their hometown, in turn offering sharp-witted satire on the politics and trends which are so much a part of these cultures. This is all filtered through a whimsical off-beat, oddball humour which hones in on everything from vegan restaurants (fart patio included) to feminist bookshops.
Season 3 features such storylines as a vegetarian couple who have to swear off pasta creating carb withdrawls, the Feminist Bookstore holding a comedy night, the Gutterpunks finding a missing cat and the the entire city of Portland having his its power cut, among other things. The episodes also feature a bunch cameos with everyone from Kurt Loder to Jack White, the former of which is involved in a notable storyline where he and a few other characters storm the MTV headquarters in order to take MTV back to what it was in the ’90s, which is sure to pull a few laughs and create some nostalgia for the grown-up Generation X-ers who the show is no doubt aimed at.
All this continual poking-fun-at the absurdities and peculiarities of hipster/liberal culture means the humour can be somewhat limited in its scope, especially for viewers who are not aware of or involved in the cultural scenes which the show draws upon for so much of its humour. Some of these in-jokes may be lost upon a few viewers then, however I suspect the creators never really intended to have a mass-appeal with the show and if anything it’s quite refreshing to see a comedy which narrows down it’s focus to a particular type of society rather than a lot of pandering to the lowest common denominator which too much mainstream humour goes for these days.
This DVD package also comes with bonus features such as deleted scenes and a tour of Portland with Kumail Nanijani which may appeal to the more fervent fans of Portlandia. Now expecting its run for a fifth season, Portlandia: Season Three is a must for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the show but also works for those who aren’t familiar with it, checking it out for the first time.