Unlike The League, I found myself watching IFC’s Portlandia for a trio of very simple reasons: the show’s been all over the place recently because the second season just started or is starting soon, I like Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live and the first season is on Netflix Instant. I had no idea what the show was really about and was a bit surprised to discover it’s actually a sketch show with some recurring characters from episode to episode all set in Portland, Oregon which is apparently a pretty hipster-filled place which makes sense, but I guess I hadn’t realized all that was still around.
Armisen’s fellow star is Carrie Brownstein of the band Sleater-Kinney, which I’ve never listened to but know is well respected. Their characters included a couple named Fred and Carrie, a pair of women working in a women’s book store, a reverse gender role couple and plenty of others that pop up including a personal favorite bit where they’re in a hide and seek league. The skits are generally pretty short and are more in the absurd world of comedy, but still real world based enough to not lose site of the kernel of reality they’re trying to send up, most of which revolve around the unintended hypocrisy or ridiculousness of the hipster lifestyle.
In addition to Armisen and Brownstein, there are a good deal of special guest spots like Kyle MacLachlan as Portland’s rad mayor who keeps asking Fred and Carrie to help him do things like start a baseball team and write a city theme song. Aubrey Plaza, Selma Blair, Steve Buscemi and Jason Sudeikis also pop up and had me laughing pretty hard. There’s also a bunch of musicians who appear, many of which I admit I’m mostly ignorant of, but the best of the bunch involve Aimee Mann who is now a cleaning lady after the music industry tanked. She’s working for Fred and Carrie who alternate between geeking out around her and chastising her for her poor cleaning abilities. The sketch also involves Sarah McLachlan doing yard work. Really funny stuff.
The sketches come pretty fast and furious, so I’m being reminded of a ton of guests and skits just by looking at the Wikipedia page right now. I watched the first episode two nights ago before going to bed and then the other five episodes yesterday morning. There’s a lot going on on the show and I think I’d need another viewing or two to really absorb it all. As you’ll find with anything like this, some jokes really landed with me and others didn’t, but overall, I think I’m pretty much always on board for anything that skewers hipsters. Why is that? I actually agree with a lot of hipster ideological, but I think making such a big deal about those ideas gets on my nerves. Just do it and shut up, you know? The dumpster diving sketch really nails that aspect.
So, I definitely recommend giving the show a shot. There’s only six episodes and they’re not very long, so you can burn through them pretty quickly if you’re interested.