The Portlandia Twitterverse was ablaze on New Year’s Day when IFC gave the fans a sneak peek at the new season by releasing—not just video clips—but the show’s second episode in its entirety. After watching “One Moore Episode,” we see what the fuss was about: It’s a total geek fest-homage to Battlestar Galactica. Oh, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Jeff Goldblum make guest appearances, too.
Where else does this kind of mashup happen but Portlandia?
The episode opens with Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen as newscasters Marc and Linda doing play-by-play and color commentary from Portland’s Allergy Pride Parade. The duo—with their wardrobes and hairdos straight from the ‘80s—announce various marchers along the sparsely populated parade route, including the Krooked Kows (lactose intolerance); the Soi! Punks! (soy allergies) and the Pok Pok Players (peanuts, shellfish). On that particular parade float, an Asian waitress tries to serve Pad Thai to a customer who refuses the order. Marc describes the dish as a “perfect storm of allergies,” to which Linda responds, “Really for some people, a Thai restaurant is a death trap.”
The skit’s kicker is the arrival of Annabelle Shoemaker, the princess of Portland’s allergy parade, who unfortunately is allergic to air, water and sun. Carrie announces, “She’s not allowed to be outside the ambulance, but I’m sure she looks just beautiful in there.” All we see a hand waving from the back of the ambulance. The whole scene has a Christopher Guest-like feel, replacing dog owners and folk musicians with allergy sufferers.
The BSG storyline begins innocuously enough with Doug (Armisen) convincing his girlfriend Claire (Brownstein) to watch the first episode of Battlestar Galactica instead of heading out to a birthday party. She agrees to watch one episode—but by the time the closing credits come up, they’re hooked.
Night turns into morning, and the hours turn into days as they watch the entire BSG catalog. Jobs, hygiene and bills be damned: “I don’t remember the last time I went to the bathroom,” Claire says in between episodes. And they get annoyed when friends call. Doug notes, “You know who would never call? Starbuck. Starbuck isn’t that dependent on people…”
When their BSG supply runs out, they freak out and begin a search for the show’s executive producer Ronald D. Moore to ask him to write one more episode. They look him up in the Portland phone book and lo and behold, he’s listed.
No one seems to care that Ronald D. Moore of Portland is the wrong Moore—but Ron’s game to write an episode, even though he says he’s never even seen “Star Trek.” His wife’s not too pleased that these two strangers are taking over her house, but the motley trio continues writing anyway.
Though we usually aren’t thrilled with stunt casting, we were genuinely surprised to see who appeared for the episode’s table read in Mrs. Moore’s kitchen: BSG actors Edward James Olmos and James Callis and a “local actor currently appearing as the Mad Hatter.” Now while he wasn’t listed in the credits, we swear that the “local actor” is the real BSG producer Ronald D. Moore. A brilliantly sublime joke. And Kudos to Olmos for being such an honest curmudgeon in the scene, getting pissy about reading whacked lines like: “Please I need you here, but get out of here…”
While guest stars Jeff Goldblum and Eddie Vedder would usually get top billing, their scenes take a back seat to the sci-fi mania of the “Moore” plot. Even this week’s promotional poster was designed with BSG in mind.
Goldblum appears as a snooty salesperson at Artisan Knots, a new store that recently got a great writeup in the Sunday Times. The store sells knots and Carrie and Fred’s characters are looking for a housewarming gift that “makes us seem different than everyone else.” They eventually buy a sculpture under glass—tangled iPhone headphones—unfortunately, the rest of the party stopped at Artisan Knots, too. While Goldblum is perfect as a creepy snob, and knots are humorous, we think that Portlandia skits work better when they riff on real trends like last week’s mixologists or last season’s “put a bird on it.”
In an entirely different sketch, Carrie starts dating a new guy, but his tattoo of Eddie Vedder playing two tambourines might be a dealbreaker. “I did like Pearl Jam in high school. Is that when you got the tattoo?” she asks. The response isn’t what she (or we) expect: “No, I got it a year ago.”
On their dates, she avoids getting a glimpse of Eddie on the arm (the Pearl Jam music riffs add a really funny touch). But the tattoo starts hitting on Carrie, too, and she decides it just might be easier to date Vedder instead of her new beau. She soon discovers that Vedder also has a bad tat of a late-’90s musician: Ani DiFranco—nose rings and all.
“One Moore Episode” is a great mix of geek-chic, pop culture and political correctness gone awry. Unlike other sketch shows, Brownstein and Armisen add a level of sophistication to the humor with subtlety and inside jokes. We wish Moore TV comedies could be as good as this.