Portlandia 2.06 "Catnap"

A tv review article by: Dylan Garsee, Nick Hanover

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.

Nick Hanover:  Did you see that Onion article just recently about Miranda July? "Miranda July Called Before Congress to Explain Exactly What Her Whole Thing Is."

Dylan Garsee:  Haha, awesome.

Nick:  I couldn't stop thinking about that while the cold open was going on. That sketch could have been mocking July. Or Portland's boutique culture. Or New York. Or any number of things.

Dylan:  The opener reminded me of a more cynical, more surreal "Let's Put a Bird on It!" and "We Can Pickle It!"

They were spot on about all of those trendy boutiques that barely have any clothes on the rack.

Nick:  There was that vibe, for sure. And it also recalled the classic Lonely Island sketch "We're Just Two Guyz," and the rhythmic edits brought to mind Tim & Eric's many musical sketches.

But what stood out most to me is how well it set up the subtle theme of the episode, which would be gimmicky branding concepts.

Dylan:  The opener was just bizarre enough, just long enough, just sarcastic enough and just good enough for me to really enjoy it without much of a complaint.

Unlike last week's episode which felt very put together at the last minute, this one felt perfectly balanced and thought out throughout.

Nick:  The overarching plot, of course, was the tale of the Nap, a Portland indie duo that are struggling to get noticed. So they recruit a cat named Kevin, rebrand themselves as Catnap and get catapulted to internet fame.

Dylan:  I am honestly surprised that there hasn't been a cat in a band yet.

Nick:  What about Cat Power?

Dylan:  Quintron and Miss Pussycat?

Nick:  Pussy Galore?

Dylan:  Cat Stevens?

Nick:  I was just about to say "At least neither of us have made a Cat Stevens joke yet." Whoops.

Wrong Cat Stevens

Dylan:  That's too easy.

Also, I ran out of "Cat" band names.

Nick:  We only scratched the surface.

Dylan:  Cat scratched the surface, you mean.

Nick:  But seriously, I loved how consistent this episode was, especially the musicality of it. It was a nice change to see Fred and Carrie show off their musical chops, which is a edge they have that I don't think they exploit enough.

Dylan:  I actually like that they don't bring out their musical side too often, because if they did, then it would turn into a gimmick, like Catnap.

But besides the Women's Bookstore sketch, Portlandia was firing on all cylinders.

Nick:  Honestly, I didn't even mind the Women's Bookstore sketch this time since everything else was so solid and thematically it fit.

Dylan:  It was short, and it wasn't too over the top, but it's still the Women's Bookstore sketch.

Nick:  The overarching sketch was actually the strongest sketch tonight, in my opinion, which is a rarity on this show. Otherwise, the Kickstarter bit was a nice quick little fill in that was pretty topical, and the Smooth Movers sketch got its gag across pretty efficiently. The Etsy musical number might have been the biggest surprise for me, though, since on the surface it seemed like such a thin premise, but something about Carrie's goofy expressions sold me on it, particularly when Fred wandered into the frame and she looked bewildered.

Dylan:  While most episodes of Portlandia seem to focus on weird aspects of Portland, tonight's was more of a focus on (I hate this word, but I can't think of a better one) "hipster" culture. And focusing on something so specific and small was somehow more unifying. Everyone knows that one person who quit their job to make jewelry. Everyone knows someone who is crazy about a shitty local band.

Nick:  Everyone loves cats, particularly when they are in bands.

Dylan:  That cat roar in that one Ratatat album is the best part of the whole thing.

Nick:  Tru dat.

I felt the production was better in tonight's episode, too. The sketches were surprisingly well framed and shot, with a shift away from the odd Looney Tunes style editing and effects that had started to creep into the show. Hell, I even enjoyed Kristen Wiig tonight, probably because she wasn't forced to play some kind of brain damaged and/or mutated weirdo for once.

Dylan:  Oscar-nominated Kristen Wiig was fantastic hilarious tonight, and Portlandia was wise in how they treated her-- sad and incompetent.

Nick:  The ending of the episode, with her shooting randomly into the crowd, leading to a perfect review from Pitchfork that results in them shutting down the site now that Catnapped had said everything that could be said through music, was priceless.

Dylan:  I love the Onion article where Pitchfork rates music as a whole a 6.7.

Nick:  On the note of ratings, what are we giving this?

Dylan:  About a 4.5. It was a great episode, not quite perfect, but damn close.

Nick:  Same thing for me. Let's hope Portlandia keeps this consistency up.

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.

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