1:01 PM EST, January 21, 2011
For the past week or two, the new IFC show "Portlandia" (premiering tonight at 10:30), has been streaming on Hulu, so a lot of you probably already got a sneak preview, which was especially wonderful if you, like me, have absolutely no idea whether or not you have IFC. (Hulu's taken the show down for now and there's only clips left, but hopefully they'll bring it back once tonight's episode airs.)
"Portlandia" is one more of these pop-culture phenomena that seems to succeed despite severely alienating a pretty substantial chunk of the population. It's a bit like "Stuff White People Like" but absurder (and funnier) and with a slightly more narrowed focus. As in "White People," "Portlandia" makes fun of, and selects exclusively for its audience, hipsters. Overeducated, hyper-environmentally-conscious, supremely-soft-hearted-liberal, (white) narcissistic indie-kid hipsters who ride bikes, own 12 3G gadgets, clutter their Netflix queues and sleep 'til noon. And it all takes place in West-Coast Hipster Mecca, Portland, Ore.: "where young people go to retire."
Starring "Saturday Night Live"'s Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein, it's a segmented show in which Armisen and Brownstein alternate male and female roles: as New Age-y women bookstore owners; as a shmoozy couple who pore over the birth documents and on-the-farm Polaroids of the chicken they just ordered for dinner; as gentle, polyamorous farm dwellers. (Swear to god.) Armisen and Brownstein are phenomenal together -- really, really, very good and hardcore funny. I guess it's chemistry they've got. They've got good chemistry. Sick chemistry.
Something fully worth noting is that the show is edited by Doug Lussenhop, otherwise known as DJ Douggpound, who also did the editing for Adult Swim's "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" Lussenhop is brilliant, and his mark on the show is subtle and distinct, like good-ass wine. Fans of "Awesome Show" will catch his style immediately; it's practically a character in itself.
There are cameos in episode one. Jason Sudeikis appears tonight in one of the best scenes in the episode, and Steve Buscemi's there for one of the other best scenes in the episode. And I expect there'll be more cameos in future shows, since Fred Armisen is both an SNL scenester and an indie-rock presence (he toured with Joanna Newsom last year!), not to mention Brownstein's Sleater-Kinney thing.
I wonder how "Portlandia" will do. It throws some mean punches, and a couple of scenes left me feeling like I'd just been pantsed. You don't need to have been to (or enjoyed immensely) Portland to feel the burn. But, happily, I expect "Portlandia" will keep giving its audience more pies to the face. I wonder if this is how "guidos" feel when they watch "Jersey Shore"?