IFC’s short-run comedy series Portlandia is a show about hipsters that translates well-beyond Portland’s city limits. (Hey Silver Lake and Brooklyn: We mean you, too.) Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney) have struck gold in poking fun at the culture of coffee shops, indie book and record stores, and that too-cool-for school attitude.
This week’s opening skit was a parody of conversations heard in cafes across America, where friends gather for a one-upmanship of intellectual superiority. Armisen’s and Brownstein’s characters quiz each other on if they’ve read various articles in publications like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Mother Jones, Spin—and even our own Paste Magazine. (“Did you read that thing in Paste? It was about the National.”)
No matter what publication they mention, the other has, of course, read it. The conversation devolves, mentioning such publications like the Washington Blade, Family Circus and last night’s fortune cookie. Once in awhile, they use general comments that can apply to any bookish conversation such as, “I did not like the ending…” How many times have we heard that one? In their competition for coolness, they dash out into the street to grab a weekly paper, and get hit by cars. The punchline (“Hey it says don’t walk…can’t you read?”) was expected—but hysterical nonetheless.
Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza makes a second appearance on the show, this time as Beth the house sitter for anal-retentive couple Bryce and Lisa. They take her through all the rooms of their impeccably clean house. When she asks about tasks like taking out the trash, she’s met with interesting responses: “We don’t observe trash day…photograph the bags and we’ll take it from there.” As she wishes the couple off on their trip, they tell her: “We’ll be back in two hours.”
The episode’s title ‘Mayor is Missing’ riffs on recent political scandals. Like South Carolina’s former governor Mark Sanford, who disappeared from office to go make hang out with his mistress in South America, Portland’s mayor (Kyle MacLachlan) has disappeared for two days, and naturally, it’s up to Fred and Carrie to find him. After tracking him down to a bar, they find the mayor with a beanie and a soul patch on his chin—now playing bass in a reggae band.
It turns out to be a pseudo-scandal. One headline reads, “Mayor openly reggae.” To clear things up, the mayor, with his wife at his side, holds a press conference. One reporter asks, “Dance hall or real roots reggae?” He answers “This is real roots reggae. We don’t mess around…Once you go dub, you can never go back.”
Portlandia has two episodes left, and we can’t wait to see how Brownstein and Armisen drolly skewer popular culture next week—and then recap it with our friends over a French press coffee, of course.
• In 2006 Brownstein was named by readers of Rolling Stone as one of the 25
“Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time.” The same has to be said of her dead-pan acting skills. The woman is seriously funny without trying.
• Bryce, pointing out coffee table books to the house sitter: “See these books? Don’t ever open them. They’re not for reading.”
• Various headlines on the mayor’s disappearance: “Dude where’s my mayor?” “Where’s the chief?”
• Carrie and Fred sign up for a new family phone plan in order to add, then track, the mayor who’s one of their “Besties.” They sign up for “The Simply Everything Plus Plan” with a “One time fee that you pay annually.”
• The mayor plays bass (a Fender Precision, to be exact). He’s laid back on stage, “Not trying to outshine the band.”