Portlandia, Season 3

Portlandia the sketch show, meet Portlandia the sitcom
Talking television.
Feb. 22 2013 10:15 PM

Portlandia, Season 3

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Portlandia the sketch show, meet Portlandia the sitcom.

Carrie Brownstein & Chloe Sevigny as Alexandra

In Slate's Portlandia TV Club, Chris Wade will IM each week with a different fan of the show. This week, he discusses “No-Fo-O-Fo-Bridge” with Slate copy editor Miriam Krule.

Chris Wade: As someone who's been poring over this season, “No-Fo-O-Fo-Bridge” felt like third-season Portlandia confidently emerging from its metamorphosis into a more complicated and specific kind of sketch show, finally nailing the balance between episodic plots and strong one-off sketches it’s been tinkering with all season. But you’re not that type of fan, right?

Miriam Krule: I've seen a lot of the show, but mostly through clips. And there hasn't been an episode this season I felt I needed to see in full, especially not tonight's. I thought this episode was really short on relatable clips, ones that go viral like "Did you read this?" and the Battlestar Galactica opening, which are the reason I watch the show in the first place.

Advertisement

Wade: Interesting and understandable. Yes, this whole season has seriously lacked notable stand-alone sketches. Tonight’s episode conforms to this trend, but it’s also functioning surprisingly well on a different level. We basically have two mini sitcom arcs: the drama in Fred-Carrie-Alexandra's love triangle and the animated Rat roommates having their friendship tested by a move. Both felt well-realized and left room for strong one-off sketches.

Krule: My favorite scene was Alexandra breaking up with Carrie at a community table restaurant. It was cloaked in the love triangle, but was still funny on its own.

Wade: This might be one of my favorite scenes this show has done. Balancing details from a relationship they hinted at all season (and defined last week) with a classically Portlandian absurd situation and stuffed with jokes relating to both. It handled the relationship-based humor of a good sitcom with the lightness and tangential relationship to reality of a sketch show. 

Krule: Can you explain the appeal of the rats? It seems like in some writing meeting someone said "Well, there should PROBABLY be stop-motion animation in this show ... " But it’s just another scene of people sitting around complaining about toy stores that sell only wooden toys.

Wade: There’s a toy store like that on my block. I agree that the stop-motion animation, while very lushly rendered, feels superfluous and distracting at times. That being said, the last two times we've seen them, the scenes were actually really funny and had a lot of great lines. (Especially from the neurotic third rat, played by producer John Levenstein: "I tried to keep the ad simple, 'roommate wanted,' but it's so much more complicated than that right now.") We also have a few strong one-off sketches. Fred and Carrie navigating the labyrinth of escalators in an urban multiplex was pretty identifiable.

Krule: I thought that was only a Times Square thing, but was a nice touch having the useless ticket rippers, too. The cold open about baby-raising techniques was also good. It was short and sweet and hit just the right note at the end. And Fred "being himself" with the baby is perfect: It seems to me every parent does actually talk to his toddler, or at least wants to, as if they're old friends.

Wade: I liked that all the stand-alones involved Fred and Carrie playing new characters, or at least wearing new wigs, instead of continuing to force material on their heavily used stock characters of Kath and Dave, Peter and Nance.

Krule: Here’s the thing: I’m a fair-weather Portlandia fan. I’ll champion the show when it’s funny, but I’m still not compelled to follow its every move.

Wade: Fair enough, but it might be less and less rewarding to be this kind of fan of the show if it continues this trajectory. Although based on the teaser, the finale looks kind of epic and amazing.

Krule: I might just have to wait for the recap.

Chris Wade is a video and podcast producer for Slate and occasional contributor to Brow Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

Miriam Krule is a Slate assistant editor.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

What Hillary Clinton’s Iowa Remarks Reveal About Her 2016 Fears

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.