"Portlandia" Episode 2 "A Song for Portland"

2/05/2011 Posted by Admin

"Portlandia" Episode 2 "A Song for Portland"

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Nick Hanover

Well, "Portlandia's" hit to miss ratio certainly increased in its second episode. Starting with the fantastic "Put a Bird on It!" sketch, which is the show's best mixture of surreal moments and more straightforward gags so far, Fred and Carrie were mostly on a roll all through episode two. It helped that most of the sketches ended on the right note instead of dragging on and the guest appearances on this episode were far better utilized.

Kyle MacLachlan rightly deserves a lot of the credit for his appearance as Portland's mayor with a Seattle complex (though Portland's real Mayor Sam Adams fared extremely well in his cameo as a mayoral aide). MacLachlan was equal parts "cool dad" and bizarre, dippy authority figure. The mayor story held the episode together really well, with Fred and Carrie being tasked with writing a song for Portland and Carrie getting some truly great moments to herself thanks to a bit involving her and a new found boyfriend that she accidentally kills.

Aubrey Plaza was the other big guest, making an appearance in the recurring "Women's Bookstore" sketch as a student trying to pick up books for a women's lib class. Plaza did a fine job and the sketch had its moments, but honestly, the "Women's Bookstore" sketches are starting to wear thin for me, maybe just because I'm already familiar with them from the Thunderant days.

What I'm liking quite a bit more are the sketches that feel most attached to Portland, like the quickie bicyclist sketch and the "Cacao" sketch, both of which had a lot of payoffs for people with a passing knowledge of Portland and its real-life characters. Anyone who's lived in the Pacific Northwest and isn't a native knows how odd the passive-aggressive tendencies of the population there can be and "Portlandia" is wise to milk that. "Portlandia" has managed to get some choice jabs in on the PNW and those have helped make the show's weaker moments easier to stomach.

If "Portlandia" continues to develop that aspect of its personality, it'll fare even better, niche market or no. Because when you think about, the best, most consistent sketch comedy shows have had certain characteristics that they could quickly mine on a moment's notice. Think the use of drag on "Kids in the Hall," or the overarching network concept of "SCTV" and compare that to "Portlandia" and its stable of PNW quirks. Given time, "Portlandia" could rise to that pantheon, as long as Fred and Carrie continue to evolve at the rate they have been.

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