Portlandia is my favorite kind of comedy show: it’s 30 minutes long and it’s funny whether you’re taking it at face value or thinking deeper into each joke (though, the latter is definitely the right way to watch it).
Whether you live in Portland or have never visited, I would wager you know, have known, or have seen in the mirror people similar to each character portrayed by the show’s genius creators and stars, Fred Armisen (formerly of Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (of the indie rock band Sleater-Kinney) – from the adventurous types who are outspokenly ready for anything to the types that try to one-up each other on the latest article they read.
From a high level, this show is coherently about precious, identity-obsessed people doing nothing, much like Seinfeld. Each episode bounces between different sets of characters, most of whom are played by Fred and Carrie. In each episode, different story lines are explored within the character groups and are concluded by the end of the 30 minutes. You don’t have to see a previous episode to understand what’s going on in a future episode and that makes this a great show to binge.
Fred and Carrie transform themselves to play these people with vastly different backgrounds and even switch genders occasionally – though you’ll find Fred in a dress more often than Carrie in menswear. The duo are surrounded by unknown recurring cast members with the occasional A-list special guest, like Steve Buscemi, Kristen Wiig, Heather Graham and Jeff Goldblum, with appearances by Louis C.K., Zoe Kravitz, Natasha Lyonne, and The Flaming Lips, among several others, on tap for the new season.
While it’s definitely fair to say that Portlandia, like the city it so lovingly skewers, may not be for everyone, it is well worth sampling at least a couple of episodes. After all, there’s a reason IFC has renewed it for six seasons.