Portlandia (TV series)

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An image of a city skyline in daytime. White text reads "Portlandia".
Genre Comedy
Surreal humour
Created by Fred Armisen
Carrie Brownstein
Jonathan Krisel
Starring Fred Armisen
Carrie Brownstein
Opening theme "Feel It All Around" by Washed Out
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 47 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Lorne Michaels
Jonathan Krisel
Fred Armisen
Carrie Brownstein
Andrew Singer
Location(s) Portland, Oregon
Camera setup Single camera
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Broadway Video
IFC Original Productions
Original network IFC
Picture format 480i (NTSC)
1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Stereo
Original release January 21, 2011 (2011-01-21) – present
External links

Portlandia is a satirical sketch comedy television series set and filmed in and around Portland, Oregon starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen.[1] The show is produced by Andrew Singer, Lorne Michaels and David Allen Cress for 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.[2] The sixth season is set to premiere on January 21, 2016.

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,[3] which appears in the show's title sequence. The show has won a Peabody Award.


Conception and development[edit]

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.[4]

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.[4]

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 Candice, originated there.[5] The bookstore is filmed inside a real non-profit feminist bookstore and event center in Portland, Oregon, called In Other Words.

Filming and production[edit]

The series is set and filmed in Portland, Oregon. Production for the first season, consisting of six episodes, began in August 2010 and was completed in September 2010.[6] The budget for the first season was set at less than $1 million (US).[4] 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.[7]

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, stars of the show.

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; 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;[8] 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.[2][9] 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.[10]

On February 14, 2011, IFC ordered a ten-episode second season, which began airing in January 2012.[11] On March 21, 2012, IFC announced its renewal of the show for a third season.[12] 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.[13] On February 10, 2015, the series was renewed for an additional two seasons.[14]


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 6 January 21, 2011 (2011-01-21) February 25, 2011 (2011-02-25)
2 10 January 6, 2012 (2012-01-06) March 9, 2012 (2012-03-09)
3 11 December 14, 2012 (2012-12-14) March 1, 2013 (2013-03-01)
4 10 February 27, 2014 (2014-02-27) May 1, 2014 (2014-05-01)
5 10 January 8, 2015 (2015-01-08) March 12, 2015 (2015-03-12)
6 10 January 21, 2016 (2016-01-21) March 24, 2016 (2016-03-24)

47 episodes of Portlandia have been produced and aired for the show's first five seasons, as well as a one-hour-long special.

On February 10, 2015, it was announced that IFC had picked up Portlandia for sixth and seventh seasons.[14]


Most sketches involve both Armisen and Brownstein playing one of a variety of pairs of characters, unless noted below. The ones most frequently seen are:

  • Fred and Carrie: played without costumes, makeup, or hairstyling, these are the show's version of Armisen and Brownstein themselves, living in a house together in Portland. Their onscreen relationship was inspired by Bert and Ernie's [5] relationship on Sesame Street.
  • Peter and Nance: an earnest and open-hearted middle-aged couple. Peter speaks with a stammer and is open to trying new things, albeit hesitantly; Nance gives him her full support but is often the voice of reason in the couple. They have a tendency to go farther into their new enthusiasms than they expected at first (for example, a desire to know the source of their free-range chicken ends in their joining a cult).
  • Dave and Kath: a very active couple who commit 100% to any new thing they do, causing annoyance to their friends and a generally joyless result.
  • Nina and Lance: a couple exhibiting stereotypical gender roles. Lance, played by Brownstein with an electronically deepened voice, is mustached and emotionless and loves fixing cars and riding motorcycles; Nina, played by Armisen, is his high-maintenance girlfriend who loves social media, birthdays, parties, and romance.
  • Candace and Toni: the proprietors of Women and Women First, a feminist bookstore. Caricatures of Third-wave feminists, they run their bookstore without amenities such as alphabetized stock or a computer to search for books, and are often hostile to customers on the grounds that they lack proper feminist attitudes or use words or gestures that trigger them in various ways. Candace (played by Armisen) harbors barely repressed rage which often boils over into threats of grievous bodily harm to customers who annoy her. (In the fifth season we learn that before running the bookstore, they were high-powered executives in the New York corporate world.)
  • Spyke and Iris: a hipster couple constantly looking for whatever is more authentic, more undiscovered, and more alternative, and always ready to drop something when it is "over".
  • Bryce and Lisa: entrepreneurs who start many businesses based on quirky concepts. These characters were the source of the catchphrase "put a bird on it!" from a sketch featuring a business that sold a variety of products with silhouettes of birds attached to turn them into "art". (In the opening sketch of the first episode of the series, Brownstein's character comments that Portland is a city where one can still "put a bird on something and call it art".)
  • The Gutterpunks: unnamed, they have the hairstyles and dress of the young transients one sees on the streets of Portland and spend their days panhandling and busking with improvised musical instruments (such as drums made of plastic buckets). In one episode, we learn that the woman gutterpunk came from a privileged background (i.e., is a trustafarian).
  • The Mayor of Portland (played by Kyle MacLachlan): an enthusiastic but naive booster for the city who constantly thinks up not-quite-plausible improvement schemes which he asks Fred and Carrie to implement. Sketches involving the mayor often feature the actual mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, who plays his assistant.


Jonathan Krisel, Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Lorne Michaels at the Peabody Awards.

Portlandia debuted on IFC on January 21, 2011.[15] 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.[16] As of May 1, 2012 the series was available to watch on Netflix in Ireland and the UK.[17]

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".[18][19] Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times called the show "funny and charming."[20] 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."[21] 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."[22] 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".[23]

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."[24] 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.[25] Former Portland mayor Sam Adams (2005 to 2009) 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.[26] A bicycle tour company began offering Portlandia tours.[27]

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[edit]

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.[28][29]

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.[30]

There is also a combination set of both seasons available.[31] Portlandia was also distributed in some countries on the iTunes store, Netflix and Amazon Video.[32] In Australia it is screened on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's station ABC2 and on its iView video streaming service.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "I Have a New Band". NPR: All Songs Considered. NPR. September 22, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Turnquist, Kristi (September 9, 2010). "IFC's 'Portlandia' crew says joke won't be on our fair city". The Oregonian (Advance Publications). Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Portlandia, the TV Show". Portland, Oregon: KOIN. September 13, 2010. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2010. The series gets its name from the Raymond Kaskey sculpture above the entrance of the Portland Building on Fifth Avenue. 
  4. ^ a b c Aaron, Mesh (November 3, 2010). "Mock Star – Carrie Brownstein is Making Fun of You". Willamette Week. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b http://www.ifc.com/fix/2014/12/15-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-portlandia
  6. ^ "Portlandia, the TV Show". KOIN News. KOIN. September 13, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010. 
  7. ^ Locker, Melissa (August 6, 2010). "SNL Fans Prepare for 'Portlandia'". IFC. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  8. ^ Locker, Melissa (April 15, 2014). "Josh Homme Is a Disappointing Gay Man on Portlandia". IFC. Retrieved January 31, 2015. 
  9. ^ Mesh, Aaron (September 9, 2010). "Portlandia Shooting Fake MusicfestNW at MusicfestNW". Willamette Week. Movies & Television. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  10. ^ "News Slightly Less Insidery Than Portlandia". Willamette Week. Scoop. September 15, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (February 14, 2011). "IFC Orders Second Season of ‘Portlandia’". The New York Times (Arts Beat). Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  12. ^ "'Portlandia' Renewed for Third Season". Rolling Stone. March 21, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  13. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (June 12, 2013). "‘Portlandia’ Renewed For Seasons 4 & 5". Deadline.com. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Roots, Kimberley (February 10, 2015). "Portlandia Renewed for Seasons 6 & 7". TVLine.com. Retrieved March 23, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Portlandia Season 1, Ep. 1 'Farm'". Amazon.com. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  16. ^ "IFC Cheers Ratings, Views Of ‘Onion' ‘Portlandia'". Multichannel News. January 27, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Portlandia Comes Only to Netflix in the UK and Ireland, and the first season is available in the US.". Netflix. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Portlandia – Season 1 Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. January 21, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Portlandia – Season 2 Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. January 21, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  20. ^ Lloyd, Robert; Critic, Television (January 21, 2011). "Television review: 'Portlandia'". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ Gay, Verne (January 19, 2011). "'Portlandia' is a Hoot of Satire". Newsday. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  22. ^ Lowry, Brian (January 19, 2011). "Onion News Network, Portlandia". Variety. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Is Portlandia One of the Best Comedies of All Time? Jerry Seinfeld Thinks So". Vulture. October 2, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  24. ^ 71st Annual Peabody Awards, May 2012
  25. ^ "IFC Original Comedy Series "Portlandia" Nominated for Two Emmy Awards". The Futon Critic. July 19, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  26. ^ Maerz, Melissa (January 30, 2011). "For the birds? 'Portlandia' lovingly pokes fun at Portland, Ore.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  27. ^ Rose, Joseph (January 25, 2011). "Portland company offers 'Portlandia bike rides'". The Oregonian. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Announcement for Portlandia – Season 1". TVShowsOnDVD. May 25, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Portlandia: Series 1 (DVD)". EzyDVD. Retrieved January 31, 2015. 
  30. ^ Lambert, David (June 27, 2012). "Portlandia – Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in 'Season 2' for DVD and Blu". TVShowsOnDVD. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  31. ^ Lambert (September 19, 2012). "Portlandia – Official Press Release for 'Season 2' on DVD, Blu-ray (and Combo S1/S2 DVD)". TVShowsOnDVD. Retrieved September 19, 2012. 
  32. ^ See the search indexes of the iTunes store and of Amazon.com, accessed 2012 10 1
  33. ^ "Portlandia: ABC TV". Retrieved September 8, 2015. 

External links[edit]