Written by: Jacob Kleinman
Last night IFC’s breakaway hit TV series Portlandia premiered its second season and it came as no surprise that the episode delivered the show’s patented bizarre brand of comedy while dishing out healthy servings of social satire.
Portlandia stars Fred Armisen (of Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (guitarist of the Portland based feminist-rock band Sleater-Kinney, currently on hiatus). The two play the majority of the show’s main characters throughout each episode, which is composed of a series of unconnected skits surrounding the narrative of Fred and Carrie, who moved to Portland from California in the pilot.
First let’s discuss the weird skits, which are usually more fun. The episode opens on an entrepreneurial couple with the catchphrase “We can pickle that,” who pickle anything they can get their hands on from cucumbers to the broken-off heel of a shoe to a dead bird. Later an uptight couple attempts to go rafting but is shocked to find that the river is full of beer drinkers in inner tubes. In a skit poking fun at helicopter parents, a teenager collecting signatures for an environmental cause is dismissed by a homeowner. Seconds later the boys parents ring the doorbell and demand to know what their son has done wrong, and when the door is slammed in their face the boy’s grandparents show up to set things right.
Finally we arrive at Women and Women First Bookstore, an independent bookstore run by two insane feminists. In past episodes, the shop’s owners Candace (Armisen in drag) and Tony (Brownstein) have locked Steve Buscemi inside the store while going to the bank for change and heard Heather Graham discuss the details of her sex life at a journaling class. This time an elderly air conditioner repairman visits the owners and after being lectured for calling them “sweetie” and “ma’am” is given a tip jar containing 28 dollars instead of the $300 he’s earned for the repair. But even that is a loss for the owners who ask themselves “Now what are we going to do for money?’ before answering, “I guess we’ll have to sell some books.”
Meanwhile Fred and Carrie venture outside of the title city for the first time after Carrie falls in love with a bartender/mixologist played by Andy Samberg. The two first meet at a trendy bar called Mint where Samberg offers to create an original cocktail when Carrie can’t decide what to order. The drink, which contains ginger, bourbon, home-made bitters, whole eggs and rotten bananas, is delicious, and Fred thinks this mixologist may have a crush on his friend. “He mixed you a drink. Now you mix him a tape,” he suggests.
But when they return to Mint the next day, mix tape in hand, they learn that their favorite bartender has taken a new job in South California. After a quick drive Fred and Carrie arrive in California, where they are burnt by the intensity of the sun and retreat into a store to purchase burqas before deciding to walk to the bar on foot, figuring it can’t be too far.
After a pit stop at a restaurant where the waiter offers to cook their entire meal into an omelet or douse it in Jack Daniels our heroes finally make it to the bar, where Sandberg has completely transformed from mixoligist into brainless bartender complete with sunglasses and a dab of sunscreen on his nose as he pours endless shots for blonde girls. After being initially rejected, Carrie succeeds in winning Samberg’s attention with a song, accompanied by Fred on the flute. The two declare their love for each other and agree to drive back to Portland immediately.
Overall, season 2 of Portlandia’s first episode was a complete success. Although the weirdness factor has not diminished all of the jokes connected and had me laughing, unlike in the first season where I was sometimes left simply scratching my head. It feels good to be back with Tony and Candace in their bookstore and to be back in the twisted alternate dimension version of Portland that Portlandia.