When I first heard about the concept for Portlandia I was skeptical.
My first reaction was, “Oh great! A hipster-themed sketch comedy show staring the members of ThunderAnt, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. And it’s on IFC no less.”
Granted Armisen is a funny guy, but giving a show to an SNL cast member who isn’t Andy Samberg or Bill Hader seemed risky; then pairing him up with Carrie Brownstein, who’s claim to fame was as the former lead singer of the all girl punk band Sleater-Kinny, seemed reckless.
Compound that when I noticed the show was available to watch on Hulu a week before it’s IFC premiere, a large part of me thought Producer Lorne Michaels is trying to get this to purposely bomb and using it’s failure as some sort of Producers style tax write off.
After I actually watched the first episode I have to say, maybe my worries were a touch over rated. This is a damn entertaining show.
It should be said though that the show knows it’s target audience well, that is “people who know what a hipster is and have some disdain for them”, and since hipsters are the most self-loathing group since the Jewish people I totally understand why they would put this on IFC (i.e. their version the porn).
The show follows the life of two “typical” Portland, Oregon residents Fred and Carrie, and their central story arc in each episode is interspersed with some absurdest skits about people living the “alternative” Portland lifestyle.
Fred Armisen does a great job delivering his role with his usual childlike excitement and stellar timing; but to tell you the truth Armisen wasn’t who I was worried about. Brownstein is the one for whom I had the most reservations about. The only real comedy experience she had to speak of was her work in ThunderAnt with Armisen, and those were internet shorts. A far cry from a full length show on cable (granted IFC is considered the far far depths of cable but still).
Suffice it to say Brownstein surpassed my expectations and then some. While it’s obvious at times she doesn’t have the chops of the actors around her, she manages to be likable and really funny. It’s clear Armisen still does a lot of the heavy lifting but it will be interesting to hopefully see her develop into her own as the show progresses.
The one thing that instantly sticks to mind about the first episode (aside from the catchy song at the shows’ beginning) is the guest stars. Episode one had guest appearances from fellow SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis and Steve “legally mandated to be in ten project per year” Buscemi.
Future episodes are going to also feature appearances from a slew of indie demi-gods, including Selma Blair, Heather Graham, Aubrey Plaza, Gus Van Sant, and Kyle MacLachlan.
For anyone who doesn’t get IFC in their premium cable package, the entire show will be available on Hulu…very progressive.
Enjoy your MLK day off and watch the first episode here and give us your opinion: