Fred Armisen. Carrie Brownstein. Skits satirizing Portland. Quirky guests. Filmed in Portland. All terrific reasons to watch season 1 of Portlandia. I was a latecomer, expecting that like SNL, it would be unfunny skits that relentlessly beat you with empty gags.
Portlandia works because Brownstein and Armisen have chemistry. They’re having fun making mediocre skits memorable. Their love letter to Portland comes through soaked in sarcasm. The short musical numbers are pleasant surprises. Brownstein combines ripping guitar with her distinctive vocals. Armisen brings his musical flair.
Kyle MacLachlan is Portland’s bike-riding mayor. Amy Mann is a cleaning lady to Brownstein and Armisen, who cannot believe she is cleaning houses. Sarah McLachlan makes a related guest appearance. Jason Sudeikis is a cult leader on an organic farm. Brownstein and Armisen’s hippy bookstore clerks make Steve Buscemi buy something after using the bathroom. Aubrey Plaza and Heather Graham visit the bookstore. Gus Van Sant interviews film makers (Armisen and Brownstein) about their movie starring Selma Blair. Even the real Portland mayor, Sam Adams, appears. Cacao.
I watched season 1 in a marathon viewing over a weekend. It has been suggested that to watch it in this condensed fashion gives more cohesion, especially with recurring characters. That when watched one at a time each week as they air doesn’t build momentum. I will watch seasons 2 as I did season 1, clustered episodes and laughing out loud.