TELEVISION: Fare Thee Well, Portlandia


PHAWKER: The people quoted in the below article are humorless bores richly deserving the parody they bitch about. Their comments only reinforce the necessity of the show’s humor.

WILLAMETTE WEEKLY: The first time I saw Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen together in the same place, it wasn’t on television or YouTube or in a magazine.

It was at a ping-pong tournament.

Specifically, the Ping Pong Pandemonium Party at Holocene in June 2010. My predecessors on the WW music desk were participating, so I came to show support. Brownstein teamed with her Sleater-Kinney bandmate Janet Weiss and won the whole thing, beating members of Starfucker in the finals.

Armisen—then most famous for portraying Barack Obama on Saturday Night Live—was also hanging out. I hadn’t yet heard of Thunderant, his sketch duo with Brownstein, so it wasn’t obvious to me why he was there.

A few months later, a press release went out announcing a new show satirizing Portland culture.

“Well,” I thought, thinking back to that ping-pong party, “this thing will write itself.”

A few months after that, it was on TV. Nothing was ever the same. And everyone’s still pissed about it.

Seven years later, Portlandia is finally ending. The sentiment around town, at least among anyone who lived here prior to its premiere, is “good riddance.”

It’s an exhausted cliché at this point, but it’s not an exaggeration: Portland truly believes Portlandia destroyed Portland as we once knew it. In 2015, we half-jokingly conducted a poll trying to determine the exact date when “Old Portland” supposedly died. Readers overwhelmingly chose January 21, 2011—the day Portlandia premiered on IFC.

Somehow, this little sketch show on an obscure cable network portraying Portland as a fantasyland of socially awkward liberal narcissists convinced the whole world to move here, driving up rents, clogging the freeways and replacing your favorite dive bar with an artisanal knot store. It misrepresented the city, then those misrepresentations became reality. They paved paradise and put a bird on it.

At least, that’s the theory.

Nobody necessarily worried about this happening when the show first started. It’s a misnomer to say the city was ever totally on-board with Portlandia, but the reasons for being wary of it were different—mostly, we just didn’t like being made fun of. MORE