Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (the great band Sleater-Kinney) hit on something kind of wonderful with Portlandia; a laidback-but-sharp spin on sketch comedy that pokes fun at contemporary hipster culture, that all but lines up the topics discussed in/on Stuff White People Like and shoehorns them into sketches and borderline non-sketches that are were written and acted out for their own amusement as much as ours.
We’re a little slow here in New Zealand – the show available only on DVD rather than screening on TV and so season two has just been released.
It’s a step up from the first episodes; the satire is both more obvious and sharper and clearly with a bigger budget and the interest the first season attracted series two features more guest stars.
Jeff Goldblum is a scene-stealer, Kyle MacLachlan returns as the Mayor of the ever-so-slightly fictionalised Portland and Eddie Vedder shows good form in a skit that mocks the idea of having an Eddie Vedder tattoo.
There’s more music in this series too – more musical guests lampooning and more skits based around music and the music industry. A perfect 10 is given leading to Pitchfork closing the site; their work is done. In desperation for a duo to find a gimmick beyond a colour scheme or colourful back-story they employ the services of their pet cat and amplify the scratching post.
DJ culture, indie bands, the ordeal of lining up for brunch – everything that gets a skewering or a lot poke and a prod in this series is handled so much better than a lazy hashtag catch-cry of “First World Problems”.
Portalandia’s second season is occasionally frustrating, like any sketch show there are one or two recurring characters that really aren’t worth the bother, their gimmick shown with their first offering, nothing to add, no reason to circle back around. But Armisen and Brownstein frequently shine if not in the writing (and mostly it’s spot on) with their commitment to characterisation, their acting skills and their gift for taking droll and stretching it out towards surreal then bending it back down to deadpan.
Portlandia is jam-packed with hit ideas, so many that that occasional dud sketch is almost welcome as something of a space-filling reprieve.
There are loads of extras here too – commentaries, deleted/extended scenes. This double-disc set is worth your time. Keep the dream of the 90s (and now the 00s) alive.