Portlandia's most annoying character, Spike, has decided to get married because, hey, what else is there left to do? Meanwhile, shenanigans ensue at a natural grocery when a man forgets to bring his bag, two overly polite people get gridlocked at a four way stop and the Women's Bookstore hosts a signing.
Portlandia airs Fridays at 10 on IFC.
Nick Hanover: Well Dylan, it was bound to happen. Portlandia has presented its first truly terrible episode of the season.
Dylan Garsee: This episode was punishment for all of the bad Sleater-Kinney songs people did at karaoke the other night.
Nick: There are no bad Sleater-Kinney songs, just bad karaoke singers.
Dylan: I stand corrected. Cue the Thom Yorke video.
Nick: Let's do a post-mortem and figure out where, exactly, things went wrong. I felt things started well enough, with a sketch that was trademark Portlandia, beginning as a relatively obvious but well-done iPhone sketch before hitting an absurd ending.
Dylan: I thought the episode was going to be great based off of that opening. It was absurd enough without coming off as annoying, it was relatable, it was just long enough, and then… the ending…
The sketch would have been perfect if she just picked up the unharmed phone, and walked off, but it had to go too far.
Nick: The ending wasn't funny, per se, but I felt it worked as an illustration of the absurdity that Portlandia deals in. It wasn't necessary, it was abrupt and jarring and it wasn't funny, but that's often what Fred & Carrie are going for: humor that serves as bizarre commentary rather than outright entertainment.
Dylan: Yeah, I can see that. It definitely fits in with other sketches that end abruptly, like last week's Eddie Vedder tattoo sketch. So that's cool that they stick to their guns. I just don't like their guns.
Nick: I think the worst offender, by far, was "No, You Go," which really pushed the limits of how long a one note sketch should go on for. "No, You Go" was also a much more obvious indicator of the influence Tim & Eric have on Portlandia, since the spastic editing was as much the focus of the sketch as the set-up was, if not more. Portlandia happens to share a key editor with Tim & Eric, but normally that style isn't as in your face as it was here, with the cuts between the two drivers stuck at an intersection being too polite about letting the other go past the stop sign first nearly replacing the lines altogether in terms of punchlines.
Dylan: It was very uncharacteristic of the show. It seemed like a rehash of the "Did You Read…" sketch that dragged on for far too long. And it wasn't even funny in the first place.
Though it was terribly unfunny, the following sketch featuring a cameo from Jack McBrayer was far worse.
Although it did bring my favorite line of the evening, "Mr Meano NoBringBags".
Nick: I'm not sure where to lay the blame for that sketch. Jack McBrayer didn't exactly put forth a lot of effort into the character other than donning a hideous wig. But there wasn't much of a joke to begin with. There's only so much you can do with a sketch that is literally just about a guy forgetting to bring his own bag to a natural grocery store.
Dylan: Kenneth (Jack, whatever) seemed like he didn't want to be there at all. He still spoke with his goofy accent, even though no one with that hair in Portland would talk like they just came off the bus from Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Fred and Carrie probably just needed to add an extra 5 minutes to the already flat episode, so they wrote a sketch in about 5 minutes, and this was the result.
Nick: And Kenneth showed up, because he's the ultimate unwanted house guest.
Dylan: "Hey guys can I be in a sketch?!"
Nick: Speaking of extremely thin jokes stretched beyond the legal limit, the overarching sketch tonight took one of Portlandia's worst characters– Spike, the bike courier– and gave him a Big Fat Portland Wedding, complete with "extreme" wedding decorations and an anti-wedding concept wedding concept.
Dylan: I feel like I am being too mean to this show, because I even if I don't like a sketch, I still enjoy the overall episode. But this episode makes that really hard. Especially with the main sketch. Every time the skit returned, I just groaned a little louder.
It was just lazy– everything from the wedding planning sketch, to the rehearsal sketch, to the friend division/wedding sketch. Somehow, each of the sketches felt both drawn out and stretched thin.
Nick: The biggest problem is that most of the sketches felt barely developed. If this were an album, this episode would be the middle stretch where all the rushed filler is crammed in.
Dylan: So, Graduation by Kanye West?
For the record, I'm using this episode to officially declare my hatred of the Women's Bookstore. I actually enjoyed the last time they popped up, but in this episode I was so bored by their appearance and inevitable idiocy that I blocked them from my mind. I get that they're clueless and pretentious, but they're not funny anymore and it's time to move on.
Dylan: Just like literally every sketch of the night, it took one joke (HOW IS BBOOK FORMED) and repeated it over and over and over.
Add that it was with two of the most annoying Portlandia characters and it just amplifies the horridness of the sketch tenfold.
Nick: There were some good individual lines that came from this episode, at least. "You're a dirty hippie. You do not get punk at all" especially stood out. And the pub trivia reference, which called back to the opening iPhone sketch, was entertaining. Especially since it seems like you and I have had to tell more than a few friends to put away the damn blackberries before they get us disqualified from whatever trivia night we're at that day of the week.
Dylan: It doesn't matter; we'd still somehow end up in 6th place.
Nick: This is true. And on that note of disappointing finishes, let's rate this damn thing.
Dylan: 1.5, only because the opening
sketch was quasi funny. Does Portlandia expect to be taken as a TV show? Talk about a petty, superficial episode from tremendously unprofessional writers..
Nick: I'm going to go with 1.5 as well, mostly because I really expect better from Portlandia, especially now that we're in the second season and they should have more of these opening season kinks worked out by now.
Dylan: Well there's only 3 or 4 more episodes left in this season, hopefully it can rebound.
Nick: That's true, maybe this episode was a fluke. Or maybe it's a sad omen of what we have to expect for the rest of the season.
Dylan: What does that say about our life choices that American Idol is the most consistent shows we've been reviewing?
Nick: I think that's a sure sign that we've hit rock bottom. And that we are hacks. Sad, sad hacks.
Dylan: We will never be taken seriously as TV critics.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.