Portlandia Review: "No Olympics" (Episode 2.09)
Is Portlandia hitting its sophomore slump? We love this show, but after Friday’s “No Olympics” episode, we want to pull its hipster card just for a little bit. Despite the guest turns by Kyle MacLachlan as the Mayor and Johnny Marr (The Smiths, Modest Mouse) as a bike valet customer, it wasn’t enough to salvage the uneven—and we’ll say it—unfunny episode.
It opens with a busy dad who has trouble soothing his son, and he finds that the only thing that will stop the crying is escalating levels of baby adventures. The gentle baby rocking chair doesn’t work, but the mile-high slingshot straight into the air does. Maybe the skit is pontificating on how the next generation needs even more stimulation than the current one? Whatever, but this opener was a big yawner. And we’re not big fans of the solo Fred Armisen sketches. We think Portlandia works best when Armisen and partner-in-crime Carrie Brownstein symbiotically riff off each other.
Armisen also goes solo in an interpretative dance in a canoe on a lake set to Erasure’s “Oh L’amour.” We weren’t quite sure what to make of this skit until we realized that it’s inspired by a real-life interpretive canoe dance, proving once again that fact is stranger than fiction. There was no dialogue in this scene, but we did miss Brownstein’s presence, perhaps as a coxswain? And thanks to the musical soundtrack, we can’t get “Oh L’amour” out of our heads—perhaps it’s time to bust out Wonderland again.
The episode’s title “No Olympics” serves as the main theme that runs throughout the show. Fred and Carrie plead with the Mayor (MacLachlan) to never, ever let Portland host an Olympics. They don’t want to the traffic, the constant construction and least of all, the big muscled jocks that will overrun the city. They’re on a crusade, running through the streets of the city (looking like Olympic torchbearers, by the way), chanting their “No Olympics” cheer.
They run into Olympian diver Greg Louganis (who still has a great set of pecs) and join him in a hot tub to talk about the benefits of hosting the Olympics. He’s jazzed and enthusiastic about the games, telling Carrie and Fred that Olympians aren’t like NBA or NFL players. They’re like “the punkers of sports.” With that description, the two rush back to City Hall to tell the Mayor they’ve changed their minds. In a typical Portlandia ending, Carrie and Fred are awarded gold medals on a stand while the Mayor does his best singsong-y William Shatner impression, improvising on the city’s gifts. The song’s no “Dream of the 1890s,” but it’s hysterical watching MacLachlan roll over a red velvet cushion.
In the show’s two other passable sketches, Fred and Carrie play two bike valets who need to find a disgruntled customer’s (Johnny Marr) red bike. Marr is exasperated at their incompetence and frankly, so are we. Another skit featured Fred and Carrie as landscape developers/designers who pitch their ideas for a new park before government officials and get carried away with the miniature figures on their model, making up dialogue as they go.
Our least favorite skit of the evening has Fred as Meriwether Lewis and Carrie as William Clark, who talk to a class about their exploration of the western United States with Sacajawea. The Native American guide (who’s not in the scene) isn’t “listening” to them, and they just call out to Sacajawea like 1,000 times during the presentation. The students in the class look bored to death, and frankly, so were we.
Let’s hope that next week’s Portlandia season two finale redeems itself after this “No Olympics” dud.