Tag Archives: sketch comedy

‘Portlandia’: A Work In Progress

I blame Netflix. For a solid year, Portlandia was present in my “Top Ten for Laura” list. A year is plenty of time for expectations to grow. Turns out it takes significantly less time for those expectations to wither.

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein as the volatile proprietors of Women & Women First bookstore. (Image: newstribune.com)

The first few episodes capitalize on novelty. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein write and portray an array of quirky Portland citizens, their feminist bookshop owners being the most engaging.

Unfortunately, after roughly three episodes of zany caricatures, the shtick gets pretty stale. Armisen and Brownstein tend to draw out or force feed the punchlines to their sketches, and they sully opportunities for satire with lackluster jabs at the counterculture.

Before I sound overly negative, I should throw Portlandia a bone. I powered through all of the first season in one sitting. I recognize this was not the wisest decision. Had I spaced out the episodes, it’s likely the cavalcade of parodies would have seemed less repetitive and more inventive. Certain shows are best when marathoned; others lend themselves to a weekly break between installments. Portlandia falls into the latter category.

Although Netflix’s “Top Ten” suggestion currently feels like a misjudgment, I have not ruled out watching the second season. I remain intrigued by Armisen and Brownstein’s undertaking. The pair could easily win me over if they simply put more trust in their raw material. The characters from which they draw inspiration require few modifications to be entertaining. I’m confident that Portlandia finds its balance in season two. But maybe I’ll give it a week before I find out for sure.


Note: Seasons one and two of Portlandia are available on Netflix. Season four is set to premiere in early 2014. Clearly I’m not the only one willing to dole out second chances. 

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