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Friday, February 4, 2011

Portlandia Uniquely Amusing

     IFC has a new sketch comedy series produced by Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels called Portlandia. It will likely not surprise you to learn that it also stars a SNL cast member, Fred Armisen, known for playing Barack Obama and Joy Behar, among others. Fred is joined by Carrie Brownstein.

     The show is made up of a series of shorts featuring odd characters, some stand alone, some recurring in multiple episodes. The jokes are much more understated than SNL. The unique catch here is that all the bits take place in Portland, Oregon, and the show tries to capture the spirit of the city. Having never been there, I can't say if it does so accurately. I can say, I have enjoyed watching it.

     In the first two weeks, Fred and Carrie visited a free range chicken farm populated by polygamists, an uber-feminist bookshop, engaged in an adult game of hide and seek, write a theme song for Portland at the request of the mayor, and did a huge opening number for the premiere.

     The humor is unexpected, and fun. For instance, the sketch about writing the song was back and forth random ideas between the pair. What made it rise above average was that Carrie fell in love, accidentally killed the guy, and attended his funeral while giving her thoughts. It was never mentioned, but really elevated the whole sketch.

     Celebrities, too, seem to like the show. In the first two episodes alone, Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Kyle MacLachlan (Desperate Housewives), Jason Sudeikis (SNL), and Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) stopped by to join the pair in their odd stories. I don't know who will be next up, but I'm excited.

     Check out Portlandia Friday nights at 10:30 p.m. on IFC.

Article first published as TV Review: Portlandia Uniquely Amusing on Blogcritics.

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