We have a love-hate relationship with Portlandia’s Kath (Carrie Brownstein) and Dave (Fred Armisen). The outdoorsy couple, who forever seared the catchphrase “A-O river!” into our brains, are just so gosh-darned annoying. Their tendency for political incorrectness and their quest for equality serve as the focal point of this week’s episode, “TADA,” and like many other Dave and Kath sketches, they were irritatingly funny.
Directed by Daniel Gray Longino, a longtime Portlandia editor, who also helmed “Weirdo Beach,” one of our favorite episodes this season, brings us a “classic” episode format. There are fake commercials and standalone sketches interspersed between Dave and Kath story segments. “TADA” opens with our favorite store owners Bryce and Lisa, who’ve moved on from putting birds on things to instead hawking “Science Lab Furniture for Men.” While we didn’t realize vintage lab equipment was a decor “thing” for the XY set, we trust Portlandia in staying ahead of the trend curve, so if Bryce and Lisa want to sell us $400 beakers to put on shelves, we’re buying. If the exorbitant price tag on test tubes and beakers isn’t enough to draw the laughs, then Bryce and Lisa accidently dropping them throughout the sketch will.
Kath and Dave, ever the sporty types, get matching fitness watches to keep track of the steps of they take each day. Ever the Type A’s, they want “more steps and faster,” so they begin to run the Portland Marathon and each promptly breaks/strains a leg in the process. In a hilarious bit of physical comedy, Armisen and Brownstein begin to crawl and drag their bodies a few paces from the starting line urging each other to finish.
The episode then cuts to a sketch that plays upon the differences between ride sharing companies and apps and old-school taxis. In a trendy cafe, a woman wants to avoid surge pricing, so she dares to call a cab company instead. Armisen and Brownstein are the epitome of the sketchy and slow-moving taxi dispatcher and driver, respectively. Brownstein drives the stinky cab from hell, with nonfunctioning windows or air conditioning. She arrives 45 minutes after Fred tells the customer that she’s pulling up front, gets lost on the way to the destination and doesn’t take credit cards. This one scene epitomizes almost every bad cab ride experienced and makes a perfect case for the existence of Lyft and Uber.
Kath and Dave’s adventures in extreme political correctness continue throughout the episode as they can now align themselves with the disabled/physically challenged committees: “Dave, we’re finally marginalized, and people are forced to care,” Kath says. We understand that’s meant as a joke, but it’s a cutting one, too. The two make complete fools of themselves in a restaurant as they disrupt others trying to get to their booth (with Kath in a scooter and Dave on crutches). “I’m not a spectacle!” Dave yells out to the other diners, who are staring at him because a bull in a China shop would be less clumsy than he is.
Kath and Dave also try and join a Portland ADA planning committee meeting, ushering new and groundbreaking ideas—like special parking and ramps for those with disabilities—but the committee kicks them out. “You’re not one of us. You need to go,” says a member. Undeterred, the duo sets up their own organization—TADA—the Temporary Americans with Disabilities Act committee. Their members include someone with frostbite, carpal tunnel syndrome from video games, someone sunburned for eight days and a girl who’s recovering from Lasik surgery. “For 24 hours, you’re going to be living with that,” Dave says without irony. Like we said earlier, Kath and Dave drive us up a wall; and while “TADA” isn’t A-O River material, their political incorrectness is so wrong that it’s laughable.
“TADA” features two other Armisen-centric sketches, and while one worked, the other wasn’t quite up to snuff. As Micah, a leader of a two-day silent retreat, Armisen is entertaining as he’s forced to constantly reset the start of quiet time. As Joey the intern, a Millennial working in a law office, the sketch falls flat because it plays upon the tired stereotype of members of the latest generation with lacking intelligence and an aptitude for work.
Portlandia is always at its best when it stays slightly ahead of the curve, and this week, poking fun at trendy science decor and old-school taxis won us over. While not the best episode this season, “TADA” brings an old-school Portlandia format back, adding welcome change of pace to some of the more recent straight(er) narratives.
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.