Portlandia, Season 1

Aaaand, finally got around to watching this six-episode funfest, mostly so I could feel better about saying “Put a bird on it.” I had seen this sketch, as well as a few others, prior to watching the whole thing, so I don’t necessarily think I was making the reference in vain, but you be the judge. At least I have all the knowledge now. And all the power.

Just kidding. Back to Portlandia. It’s good. It’s not great, but it’s good. For me, it falls a little higher than Flight of the Conchords in the funnier-to-talk-about-later category. Of course, a few sketches stood out, namely the one with the couple who insisted on knowing everything about the organic chicken they were about to consume and wound up in a FLDS-esque cult, and anything involving either Kyle MacLachlan or Kumail Nanjiani. MacLachlan, a.k.a. Trey MacDougal/Orson Hodge/pretty soon I’ll watch Twin Peaks and know his character name from that, is an endless delight. He seems to get younger and more adorable as he gets older, which is completely unfair. And he also gets funnier, which is completely refreshing. He’s like Alec Baldwin, except still in shape. Burn. And Nanjiani… he’s really good at keeping a straight, dry face in the midst of saying absurd lines about cell phone plans and (spoiler alert, I watched the Season 2 premiere) uber-American eateries.

Portlandia is a dish best served with general awareness of Portland, of course. People there are exactly as they’re portrayed on this show; they’re really stuck in the 90s, they work so they can play more, they eat everything locally, they have lots of tattoos, they never want to leave their tree-lined utopia. And the street signs I saw really did have birds on them. So I’d recommend this show if you feel you would appreciate its lighthearted jabs at a beloved city. I’m not trying to be exclusionary. I’m just laying down the truth.

Except, one thing. I don’t know that this show necessarily portrays Portland so favorably. Of course, in some ways, it’s a very thoughtful love letter, with random tangents and cohesive storylines, and it’s a nice tribute. But none of the sketches ever really screamed “THIS IS HOW MUCH I LOVE PORTLAND!” and I have to say that I expected some of them to do so. I wanted a little bit of genuine love mixed in with the heavy dose of irony, but the irony was served solo on the plate. Bad metaphor, solid image I think.

I’ll keep watching, because the show is clever, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are talented while staying understated, and I love the guest stars they get on the show. It’s sort of one big in-joke for Portlandians and SNL lovers alike. But I’m going to set a high standard for Season 2 and hope they surpass it.



  1. adampbellotto · January 8, 2012

    Would you say it’s worth a watch for someone who knows nothing about Portland?

    I’m not a huge Fred Armisen fan. But I’m willing to be swayed on that.

    • stef · January 9, 2012

      Hmmm. This show is definitely Armisen and Brownstein-filled, so if you can’t handle that, I’d say skip it. But the two of them play characters (and poke fun at Portland’s hippie-hipster culture) more than they play themselves, so if that makes it easier to watch, then go for it!

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