This week’s episode of Portlandia opens with a hippie gathering in a field, set to the sounds of Joanna Newsom strumming the harp and Fleet Foxes lead singer Robin Pecknold joining Carrie Brownstein, Fred Armisen and other characters in the dancing. We could smell the patchouli wafting from our TV set.
But despite the indie music stars’ guest turns, the opening scene was probably the lamest of this season. Instead of watching a sketch along the lines of other episode openings, like the music video “Dream of the 1890s” or Miranda July, co-proprietor of the Two Girls, Two Shirts boutique, we watch and cringe as Carrie and Fred’s characters “help” Newsom load her (at least) $10,000 harp—into their hatchback. There’s a lot of wasted potential in this scene, and now we think that harp bashing should be banned within Portland city limits. Where’s the mayor when you need him?
The episode title, “Motorcycle” focuses on Brownstein and Armisen as a middle-aged couple looking to reclaim the glory days. The highlight of their recent social lives was catching an Allman Brothers show at a casino, where they stayed for “the whole concert—almost.” After spotting Jackass star Ehren McGhehey making out on his motorcycle with a hot babe, they decide that’s how they can get the sexy back.
The bikes they pick out aren’t exactly Harleys or Ducatis. He sports a three-wheeled motorcycle, and she’s struggling with a motorized unicycle. They stop in front of another middle-aged couple’s house to ask for directions. The couple—who say they were featured on the TV show Real Sex 9—are swingers who think that they’re being picked up. The four sit awkwardly in the living room while the conversation turns to the 9/11 attacks, with Fred not remembering what he was doing at the time the planes hit the World Trade Center towers. The scene was very random and very weird.
Fortunately, there are a few redeeming skits this week. In our favorite, Doug and Claire (from the Battlestar Galactica episode) are back. She has a business meeting and doesn’t want Doug to sit around and drink beer all night so she calls a sitter. Claire wants Doug down at 11:30, so she leaves specific instructions: “If he starts staring at the on-demand screen, it’s time to turn it off.” The elderly sitter asks, “Is he allowed to have a snack with his beer?” The babysitting interaction is hilarious, though Doug’s sitter lets her ward drink a lot more beer—and even joins him. It’s a case of arrested development, and something that we recognize in quite a few people (but we’re not naming names).
Another good skit takes place at Rock n’ Rose vintage where Armisen, as a snotty clerk, rejects most of the clothing Brownstein’s trying to sell to the store. He openly mocks the styles: “You must have been so depressed when you wore these.” As Brownstein leaves the shop, she turns around as the clerks adjust the window dressing and signage. She spots the shorts that she just sold to the store with the sign, “Saggy ass sad girl shorts.”
Facebook also got the Portlandia treatment this week as a couple (Armisen as a woman, Brownstein as the man) navigate the Internet. She’s a serial Facebook poster, and he doesn’t even have an account. She really wants to change her relationship status and badgers him to sign up for an account. She takes tons of photos to post on her profile, even one of him while on the commode. When he gets caught under a car hood while fixing a car, he tries to call, but the only way to reach her is posting “save me” on her FB wall. She’s thrilled at his first post, and documents the moment with a photo, but leaves him trapped while she goes to post the picture.
This wasn’t our favorite episode of Portlandia, but we still enjoy it when Brownstein, Armisen and their co-writer, director Jonathan Krisel poke fun at things we usually don’t even think about. Babysitters for hipsters and condescending store clerks. Brilliant. Unfortunately, most of this episode fell flat, especially with nonsensical harp bashing and Sept. 11 dialogue. But what bummed us out the most was the focus on the middle-age couple looking to get their groove back. If that’s a portent to our future, then we hope that we never grow up—just like Doug.