A six-part comedy series called Portlandia, which spoofs quirky lifestyles in bike-friendly Portland, including bicycling, is currently airing on IFC, the Independent Film Channel.
“Do you remember the ’90s?” Fred Armisen, also of Saturday Night Live, asks co-star Carrie Brownstein in the opening episode. “You know, people were talking about getting piercings, and getting tribal tattoos, and people were singing about saving the planet, and forming bands? There’s a place where that idea still exists as a reality.”
I’ve been to that place, Portland, only once, in connection with a bicycle ride down the Oregon coast, and IFC is not part of my cable package. So I can only judge the sharpness of the series’ satirical sketches from snippets posted on YouTube and Hulu.
I laughed out loud!
Particularly funny is the pretentious couple in an oh-so-trendy restaurant who inquire intently about the quality of life of the chicken on the menu. The chicken, we learn from the equally pretentious server, is a heritage breed, raised on four acres of local woodland and fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy and hazlenuts. The waitress produces a manila folder on “the chicken you’ll be enjoying tonight.” His name was Colin, according to his pedigree papers, and an accompanying photo shows that he was once a very happy bird.
Almost as funny is the sketch about members of the Portland Adult Hide and Seek League, who stage a hide-and-seek match between the Sherlock Homies and the Punky Bruisers in a Portland publicy library.
And the snippet on a militant cyclist navigating the streets of Portland cracked me up. I wondered how many of my cyclist friends would be reminded of someone they know.
Portlandia, set and filmed in Portland, features Armisen, in his ninth season as a member of the SNL cast, and Brownstein, who was a member of the now-dissolved indie-rock band Sleater-Kinney and currently lead guitarist and singer for all-female band Wild Flag.
The series premiered on Jan. 21 and runs on Fridays at 10:30 p.m. EST/9:30 p.m. CST.
A sculpture with the same name as the series dominates the entrance of the Portland Building on Fifth Avenue in downtown Portland.
Here’s how the hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, described the series in a story on Jan. 19 before its premiere on IFC:
“Portlandia is a satirical poke in the ribs at the Rose City and its more spoofable attributes,” wrote Kristi Turnquist.
“It’s a comic portrayal showing a town populated by compulsively organic foodies who interrogate their restaurant server on every detail of the chicken they’re about to order; aggressive bicycle commuters; humorless proprietors of feminist bookstores; and self-righteous animal activists.
“These jokes are nothing new to Portlanders, who poke fun at themselves for plenty of the same things. And national media have written stories that make it sound as if the entire city is fixated on recycling, coffee, beer and farm-to-table dining. Portlandia brings a parody version of that Portland to a national audience.”
I want to see more.