Though its third season doesn’t officially begin until Jan. 4, Portlandia fans were treated to an early Christmas present with the bonus episode “Winter in Portlandia.” Instead of a re-tread of old clips, which many shows resort to for specials, this winter episode was filled with brand spanking new skits filled with ridiculousness, confirming Portlandia as one of the more original shows on TV.
Winter is approached in Portlandia, naturally, from a different perspective. Seasonal affective disorder and pasta addiction are themes that traverse the episode. Even before the opening credits, we watch as a group of Portlanders chase little spots of sunshine through the gloom. When the sun peeks through the clouds and shines on a patch of grass, the group is there—barbecuing, drinking beer and applying the sunscreen. Reggae tunes play from the boombox and dancing ensues. For about 15 seconds. Then the sun-worshippers go and chase another ray of sun, no matter where it is.
Though not our favorite Portlandia residents, Peter (Fred Armisen) and Nance (Carrie Brownstein) play a big part in the episode. Peter is worried about getting fat, and they decide to cut pasta out of their lives. Instead of weaning Peter off slowly through whole wheat or a soba noodle-substitute, they cut him off cold turkey. We watch as Peter suffers through all the stages of addiction. And while we know substance abuse is no laughing matter, we couldn’t help but be amused as we watch Peter try to heat up a few corkscrew pastas in a crack pipe-like bowl in his car or when Nance finally finds him in a seedy motel room bed surrounded by dried pastas and a number of take out containers of spaghetti. They should have ended it there, because the rehab scenes are anticlimactic and not that funny.
Of course, this episode has its special guest stars. Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan plays the straight man (pun intended) perfectly in a Women & Women First Bookstore. He’s Candace’s son, Robert, who stops by the store with his baby while Christmas shopping.
The skit dials up the political (in)correctness, as the women do not want to know the sex of the child, and go to great lengths to not find out—even while changing its diaper. When they suggest a gift from the store for the child’s mother, they show Robert a vagina pillow, and this great bit of dialogue ensues:
Robert: “I don’t want that vagina pillow. We have so many. We have 13 vagina pillows..my entire bed looks like a bunch of women exploded on it.”
Candace: “That’s one room…so there are other rooms the house.”
Robert: “You guys give each other vagina pillows every Christmas?”
Toni: “I don’t need a vagina pillow.”
Robert: “No one does.”
Other guest stars include Jim Gaffigan and Matt Lucas as Donald and Stu, proprietors of the food trailer Stu’s Stews. It takes them six days to get their first customers and they wonder why. We’re guessing that this huge mural—of two men sitting in a vat of stew—painted on the outside of the trailer might be the turnoff.
Jack White makes an appearance, too, but it’s in a lame scene about a DIY recording studio nut (Armisen) who collects equipment from old Beach Boys and Beatles sessions (though he does a quick, but dead-on Brian Wilson impression).
“Winter in Portlandia” might be a good portent to the upcoming season—Portland’s zany characters are back poking fun at hipsterhood. And while we don’t know about the rest of the season yet, “Winter in Portlandia’s” offbeatness is a welcome cure to the winter blues.