“Portlandia” has successfully skewered modern relationships, pop culture and well-meaning misguided characters over the course of eight seasons. But looking back, Carrie Brownstein admits that she cringes at a few older sketches that don’t necessarily hold up.
In particular, Fred Armisen’s characters make references early in the show’s run to Netflix — but the mail-order DVDs, not the streaming service. “That’s one thing that bothers me,” Brownstein said. “You’re apt to make something that becomes dated because of technology. You’re not immune to it. But I hate it so much!”
Still, for a show that is filmed months in advance and can’t be timely, “Portlandia” has mostly managed to be in the zeitgeist. Think about the sketch years ago about spoiler alerts (which has become even more relevant in this Peak TV age) or the infamous Colin the chicken sketch, which took the idea of farm-to-table to a whole different level. This season, Brownstein plays an executive who’s recently promoted at work after 17 years in a male-dominated office, yet all her colleagues want to do pat themselves on the back for not harassing her.
“That kind of sketch could have been written the first season,” she said. “I don’t know if that makes it better or worse… We’re trying to write from our own experiences and things we’ve been observing and phenomena that has a timeless feel, since we can’t write the show and put it out the same night.”
IndieWire’s Turn It On recently sat down with Fred and Carrie to discuss the end of the show, and how these two musicians compare it to a band putting out a final album — but not ruling out a reunion tour. Listen below!
“Portlandia” may be forever linked with the city of Portland, but the show is really about the kinds of people on the show, most of whom can be found everywhere. “What we were so interested in was the way people performed couplehood or how does an ideology manifest itself in a city,” Brownstein said.
The show’s segments also came along at a time when people were just beginning to share bite-sized videos and memes on social media. Some “Portlandia” sketches have become iconic, as have characters like Candace and Toni, the second wave feminists who owned the Women and Women First bookstore, the gender-bending Nina and Lance, the “put a bird on it” entrepreneurs Bryce and Lisa, the couple Claire and Doug, and Fred and Carrie as versions of themselves.
Guest stars over the years have included Kyle MacLachlan, who has frequently returned as the mayor of Portland.
“Fred and Carrie are brilliant,” MacLachlan said. “They created a show that poked fun at what was happening around all of us, but did it in a gentle and loving way. It’s such a great approach that they took.”
MacLachlan also said he remains in close contact with David Lynch — he had just been at the filmmaker’s home with Laura Dern the previous day (a photo of their breakfast later went viral) and that he has reiterated that if asked, he would serve on another season of “Twin Peaks.”
Armisen and Brownstein said they probably wouldn’t want to turn one of their sketches into a film — although “Portlandia” is also executive produced by Lorne Michaels, even he has stopped doing that with “SNL.” But nonetheless, they do hope to reunite at some point.
“We love working with each other, and who knows what form it would take, but there’s no such thing as never again,” he said.
Added Brownstein: “I’m going to replace you with a hot 22-year-old guy.”
“Portlandia” airs Thursdays at 10 pm on IFC.
IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.