Portlandia—Season 1

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Fun guest-stars, some really clever writing

Like most sketch comedy shows the sketches are hit and miss, too short of season


Welcome to the magical world of Portland, Oregon!

Welcome to Portlandia…a magical world where the ’90s never ended, flannel is still popular, people ride bikes, you can still go to clown-school, and you can put a bird on something and call it art. Enter this world if you dare…Portland, Oregon has never been nicer.

Portlandia is a sketch comedy show starring Fred Armisen (of SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (of the bands Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag) which airs on IFC (Independent Film Channel).  It is produced by Lorne Michaels and has a six thirty-minute episodes for its first season.  The series is shot in and around Portland.  The series won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety/Music Program or Special (for the episode “The Farm” tying with Gettysburg).


Put a bird on it!!!

Portlandia is like a lot of sketch shows…hit or miss.  Armisen and Brown worked together before Portlandia doing online comedy sketches and Portlandia is the result of their years of collaboration.  For a sketch show, Portlandia—Season 1 are mostly positive, but as opposed to something like SNL, if you don’t like a sketch, you can move on to the next sketch for a quick laugh since the clips come at you in pretty rapid fire.

Also like SNL, there are recurring characters.  The biggest winners of the group probably are the women of Women & Women First whose strict policy for women equality causes problems for their shoppers.  These character appear three times in this season, so it is obvious that Carrie and Fred (who are also characters within the series) enjoy playing the two.  There’s Spike the bike messenger who seems to channel Puck from Real World (not a huge fan of this character), but mostly Carrie and Fred play slightly confused different couples throughout the series.


So…how kinky are you Beth?

Unlike most comedy sketch shows, the series will often have a theme running through an episode.  This season’s themes include a quest for truly humane organic chicken, planning a song for Portland, a problematic famous cleaning lady, a missing mayor, a festival called Blunderbuss, and a dream of a professional baseball league for the city of Portland.  The stories are woven into the sketches and appear and reappear throughout the episode.  This clever “plot” device allows viewers to stick with the show and gives nice transitions between the individual independent sketches.


The coolest mayor ever!

A fun aspect of Portlandia—Season 1 is the guest-stars.  Aubrey Plaza (of Parks & Recreation) stops by for a couple of episodes and Kyle McLaughlan has a recurring role as the Mayor of Portland.  Steve Buscemi shows up in the Women & Women First sketch in the freshman episode.  Both Aimee Mann and Sarah McLachlan tend to Carrie and Fred’s home when the music industry gets tough.  Edie McClurg continues her skills a secretary (as she did in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) for the Mayor.  The Blunderbuss festival brings The Decemberists Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee together with James Mercer of The Shins and Carrie Brownstein’s former band member Corin Tucker to Portland where a film starring Selma Blair and hosted by director Gus Van Sant premieres.  Heather Graham also faces the wrath of the Women & Women First women when she spouts about her boyfriend

Portlandia is a great show that needs to be checked out.  Many of the sketches of Portlandia—Season 1 are on YouTube if you want a hint of what the show is like but watching the show in its entirety is a different experience.  For a fun vacation head to Portland!  Seriously…

Portlandia—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:



1.1       Farm Airdate:  01/21/11

Jason (Fred Armisen) returns from Portland…to reveal to Connie (Carrie Brownstein) the magic that it never aged past the ’90s.  Peter and Nance dine in a restaurant priding itself on its organic chicken leads to a trip to the farm of Aleki (Jason Sudeikis). Carrie introduces Fred to mind-fi. Toni and Candace of Women & Women First bookstore try to help a customer (Aubrey Plaza) who uses their “customers-only” bathroom. The adult Hide & Seek league goes to the library for the Punky Bruisers vs. the Sherlock Holmies latest game.


“A Song for Portland”

1.2       A Song for Portland Airdate:  01/28/11

Put a Bird on It goes to a new shop to decorate and Bryce and Lisa tells everyone the latest art trend. A couple of musicians go to meet the Mayor (Kyle MacLachlan) to suggest Bring Your Guitar to School or Work Day and are suggested to write a song to promote Portland (and not Seattle). Spike the angry bike-messenger makes his way through Portland. Women & Women First try to help a woman studies student (Aubrey Plaza). Kath and Dave look for the owner of a dog they find tied-up. Lance and Nina adopt a safeword but finds it gets in the way…cacao.



1.3       Aimee Airdate:  02/04/11

Spike finds everyone is stealing his scene and look and everything he knows is over.  Fred and Carrie discover their cleaning lady is Aimee Mann, but their attempt to win her over is too much when they attack Sarah McLachlan.  A pair of Japanese girls visits a coffee shop.  Lance and Nina get an orgasmic ring, but Nina obsesses about the packaging.  A couple of punks try to convince their friend to get out.  A stripper named Laticia starts her first day as a stripper by shadowing Frankie.  Dumpster divers show how they go through the trash for their food and plan a dinner party.


“The Mayor Is Missing”

1.4       Mayor Is Missing Airdate:  02/11/11

A group versed in reading finds new material to read…but who can read it first?  A trip to see the Mayor by Fred and Carrie is hindered by the Mayor’s secretary (Edie McClurg) who reveals the Mayor is missing.  Beth (Aubrey Plaza) arrives to house sit for Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman and get a tour of their home.  Fred and Carrie try to decide on a family plan in their quest to find the Mayor.  A bicyclist celebrates her birthday and has a run in with bike messenger Spyke.  Carrie and Fred find the Mayor’s secret pastime.  Julia starts her first day at her new job but can’t find her boss.  The Mayor’s admission that he is openly reggae causes problems.



1.5       Blunderbuss Airdate:  02/18/11

A quest for missing cat leads to a battle over a phone pole by the Blunderbuss promoter.  Blunderbuss comes to Portland, and members of the band Echo Echo (including Colin Meloy of Sleater-Kinner).  The Decemberists, James Mercer of The Shins, and Corin Tucker) decide to destroy the hotel while they wait.  The singer of Sparkle Pony (Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists) finds herself denied from the show and learns her hope may lie in a venue called Alaska.  Finding Mr. Right starring Franny Walker (Selma Blaire) premieres at Blunderbuss by the Warnicker Brothers, and Gus Van Sant hosts a Q and A.  Sparkle Pony gives an impromptu concert.



1.6       Baseball Airdate:  02/25/11

Unemployment strikes Portland and the people of Portland and hope arises in a commercial.  Carrie and Fred are hired by the Mayor to bring baseball to Portland.  A light bulb maker finds himself working on his hand-blown lightbulbs.  Heather (Heather Graham) arrives at Women & Women First arrives to read her journaling session and is criticized for liking her boyfriend.  Carrie and Fred audition players Portland’s baseball team the Portland Thinkers.  Chefs Marcos and Ana pose for their photo-shoot for the dining guide.  Cath and Dave set up for an outdoor moving showing.  Carrie and the Mayor establish Batty Batterson, Mitty Mitchell, and Grumpy Grumperson for the Portland Thinkers TV show.

Related Links:

Portlandia—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Portlandia—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Portlandia—Season 4 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response