"Portlandia" Episode 3 "Aimee"

2/11/2011 Posted by Admin

"Portlandia" Episode 3 "Aimee"

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Nick Hanover

The third episode of "Portlandia" really proved to me that it won't be long before this show becomes must-see. "Aimee" didn't have a perfect hit-to-miss ratio, but it was damn close and even managed to make the idea of recurring characters palatable. There was a surprisingly perfect guest appearance from Aimee Mann (which gave the episode its title), some unique, unpredictable sketches and the pacing issues were more or less completely eradicated.

But first, that guest appearance. In a brilliant move by Fred and Carrie, Aimee Mann plays herself, except she's had to give up on music and focus on being a cleaning lady because the music industry is faring so poorly. Fred and Carrier are her anal, passive aggressive bosses who also happen to be big fans of her work, despite admitting they've downloaded most of her albums. As an attempt to impress Aimee they're constantly insulting other female singer-songwriters to her and creating larger and larger messes for her to clean up as a result. It culminates in the appearance of a Sarah McLachlan pinata and then finally McLachlan herself, as a gardener, and the scene is a perfect storm of absurdity and frustration by a normal character at the hands of the abnormal characters.

The rest of the episode focused on smaller, niche characters that should be funny even if you aren't from the PNW but probably pay off even better if you are. Lonely, self-righteous dumpster divers, gutter punks and holier-than-thou bike messengers are kind of a staple of the PNW but the sketches they're in, outside of the gutter punks, were hilarious because of the universality of the characters' absurdity, not because of the specificity of their foibles. Still, the gutter punks telling a friend to "just get out of there!" over and over was the weakest of the bunch specifically because it leaned too heavily on a not very common form of personal oddity.

Similarly weak was the strip club shadowing sketch, which was the type of thing you'd expect to see on an especially bad SNL sketch but half as long. Better but still kind of an odd fit for "Portlandia" was the sketch lampooning Japanese fashion tourists, in this case two who set out to go to "coffee land." That said, the moments where the Harajuko girls did "imitations" of Portland people was pretty amazing, mostly because it was so at odds with everything else.

Nonetheless, you can't ignore "Portlandia's" growth over its first few episodes and even with the misses this time out, there was plenty to love as well as a good sense that the show is really finding its own personality. The types of sketches on display just aren't the sort you'd find somewhere like SNL and even with the occasional "Tim & Eric" diversions, "Portlandia" doesn't feel like that program either. Rather, "Portlandia" feels like an update on the early '90s style of sketch comedy, which is fitting given its theme.

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