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Portlandia (TV series)

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8/10 TV

Country of origin  United States
Theme song  Feel It All Around
7.8/10 IMDb

Original language(s)  English
Network  IFC
Portlandia (TV series) wwwgstaticcomtvthumbtvbanners13538500p13538

Genre  Comedy Satire Sketch Surreal humour
Created by  Fred Armisen Carrie Brownstein Jonathan Krisel
Starring  Fred Armisen Carrie Brownstein
Opening theme  "Feel It All Around" by Washed Out
Directors  Jonathan Krisel, Carrie Brownstein
Cast  Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel, Kyle MacLachlan, Kumail Nanjiani

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Portlandia is a sketch comedy television series set and filmed in and around Portland, Oregon, starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. The show is produced by Broadway Video Television and IFC Original Productions. It was created by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, along with Jonathan Krisel, who directs it. It debuted on IFC on January 21, 2011.


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The show shares its title with the sculpture of the same name that sits above the entrance of the Portland Building on Fifth Avenue in downtown Portland, which appears in the show's title sequence. The show has won a Peabody Award.

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In January 2017, the series was renewed for an eighth and final season to debut in 2018.

Conception and development

Portlandia (TV series) Portlandia TV series Wikipedia

Brownstein and Armisen first met in 2003 and began collaborating on a series of comedy sketches for the Internet in 2005 titled ThunderAnt. The sketches became increasingly Portland-centric, with premises ranging from irate diners at a popular Hawthorne District restaurant registering ridiculous complaints on the review website Yelp! to a character's disastrous one-man performance at the city's Hollywood Theatre.

Portlandia (TV series) Fred Armisen stars in 39Portlandia39 season two new on DVD and Blu

In July 2009, the duo pitched their idea for a full-fledged sketch comedy show to IFC and Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video production company, and the project was quickly approved.

Some of the content on the show first appeared in the web series; the "Women & Women First" feminist bookstore sketch and its owners' characters, Toni and Candace, originated there.

Filming and production

The series is set and filmed on location in Portland, Oregon. The sketches set in the feminist bookstore "Women and Women First" were filmed in an actual non-profit feminist bookstore and event center in Portland named In Other Words; this name can be seen on the chalkboard listing in-store events behind the cash register. Although it formerly referenced the show in promoting itself, the store decided to end its relationship with the show in late 2016, citing bad behavior during filming, contribution to gentrification by the show, and "trans-antagonistic and trans-misogynistic" humor in the sketches.

Production for the first season, consisting of six episodes, began in August 2010 and was completed in September 2010. The budget for the first season was set at less than $1 million (US). Along with Allison Silverman, a former head writer and executive producer for The Colbert Report, and Portlandia director Jonathan Krisel, Armisen and Brownstein wrote the sketches that appear in the first six episodes. Lorne Michaels served as executive producer.

The series stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in various roles. Guest stars include: Kirsten Dunst; Olivia Wilde; Selma Blair; Chloë Sevigny; Roseanne Barr; Steve Buscemi; Aimee Mann; Sarah McLachlan; Brownstein's Sleater-Kinney bandmate, Janet Weiss; KD Lang; Angel Bouchet; Heather Graham; Michael Nesmith; Aubrey Plaza; Kumail Nanjiani; Jason Sudeikis; Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam; J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.; Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age; Gus Van Sant; Tim Robbins; Martina Navratilova; Jeff Goldblum; Joanna Newsom; Annie Clark; Jack White; and Kyle MacLachlan as a fictional mayor of Portland. Actual Portland mayor Sam Adams is also featured as an assistant to the mayor. Another episode, including a fictionalized music festival similar to Portland's actual MusicfestNW, featured a rock band played by Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists; James Mercer of The Shins; Brownstein's Sleater-Kinney bandmate, Corin Tucker; and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse.

On February 14, 2011, IFC ordered a ten-episode second season, which began airing in January 2012. On March 21, 2012, IFC announced its renewal of the show for a third season. On June 12, 2013, the network announced its renewal of Portlandia for fourth and fifth seasons, of ten episodes each, that aired in early 2014 and early 2015. On February 10, 2015, the series was renewed for an additional two seasons. On February 10, 2015, it was announced that IFC had picked up Portlandia for sixth and seventh seasons.


Most of the sketches on Portlandia feature Armisen and Brownstein playing one of a variety of pairs of characters, most of which appear in multiple episodes. One of those pairings is "Fred and Carrie", a naturalistic depiction that is supposed to represent versions of the actors as if they were friends living together in a house in Portland. Most of the others use makeup, costumes, and wigs to depict pairings both young and old of various types. Sometimes cross-dressing is used, as when Armisen portrays Candace, co-owner of the Women and Women First bookstore, or when Armisen and Brownstein play Nina and Lance, a couple with very stereotypical gender roles.

There are also a small number of recurring characters played by other actors, such as the Mayor of Portland and his assistant (played by Kyle MacLachlan and Sam Adams, the actual mayor from 2009-2012), Fred and Carrie's landlord (played by Steve Buscemi, who also directed several episodes), Angel (played by Angel Bouchet, who appears in multiple episodes as herself), and a swinger couple (played by Ebbe Roe Smith and Kristine Levine).


Portlandia debuted on IFC on January 21, 2011. IFC "cheered" the first episode's Nielsen ratings of 263,000 viewers (live plus same day); factoring in repeats and three days' worth of DVR viewings, the number grew to 725,000, a figure that does not include an estimated 500,000 online preview viewings on IFC.com, Hulu and YouTube during the days before the official IFC premiere. As of May 1, 2012 the series was available to watch on Netflix in Ireland and the UK.

The show has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. Review aggregator site Metacritic has given the first season a rating of 71 out of 100, and the second season a rating of 75 out of 100. Both of these ratings fall within the site's range of "generally favorable reviews". Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times called the show "funny and charming." Verne Gay of Newsday awarded the series an "A" grade and called it "hilarious". He noted that "Brownstein and Armisen move so effortlessly between characters, then execute their riffs, tics, styles and voices with such skilled abandon that before long this doesn't seem like satire any longer but a fun house mirror reflection of intensely real people." Contrarily, Brian Lowry, writing for Variety, noted that the show was "clearly on a shoestring budget" and said that it featured an "array of tiresome characters" that provided "further proof not everyone deserves a sketch comedy showcase - especially when the premise cuts no deeper than vignettes inspired by the wheat-germy, hippie-ish environs of Portland, Ore." Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is a fan of the show. In a 2014 interview he said, "I think that's the best comedy on TV right now, and it's easily one of the best comedies of all time".

In 2016, the feminist bookstore and community center, In Other Words, ended their relationship with the show, stating in a blog post that "the location and staff were mistreated during a filming session, the show is trans-antagonistic and trans-misogynist, becoming more offensive as time goes on, the show doesn't reflect the diversity of the Portland area and contributes to gentrification."

Awards and Nominations

Portlandia won a Peabody Award in 2011 "for its good-natured lampooning of hipster culture, which hits the mark whether or not you’re in on the joke." Portlandia also won an Emmy Award in 2011 for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety Program or Special and was also nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series in the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. Former Portland mayor Sam Adams (2009 to 2012) also appeared on the show and proclaimed January 21, 2011, Portlandia Day. The proclamation included a decorative bird, referring to a joke in the TV series. A bicycle tour company began offering Portlandia tours.

For the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, the show received nominations in Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Fred Armisen, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series, Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series for Jonathan Krisel, and Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Steve Buscemi for the episode "Celery".

Home and international release

Portlandia: Season One was released on Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray on December 6, 2011, and Region 4 on August 1, 2012. The one disc set consists of all six episodes of its first season. Special features include; Extended Scenes, Bloopers, An IFC Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, "Thunder Ant" Sketches, and Audio Commentary by Armisen and Brownstein.

Portlandia: Season Two was released on Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray on September 25, 2012, and Region 4 on August 7, 2013. The two disc set consists of all ten episodes of season two. Special features include; "Portlandia: the Tour: Seattle" Featurette, "Inside Portlandia" Featurette, "Feminist Bookstore" Deleted Scene, "Brunch Village: the Director's Cut", Excerpt from the Portlandia book and Audio Commentary by Armisen, Brownstein and Krisel.

There is also a combination set of both seasons available. Portlandia was also distributed in some countries on the iTunes store, Netflix and Amazon Video. In Australia it is screened on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's station ABC2 and on its iView video streaming service.


Portlandia (TV series) Wikipedia