MCN Review: IFC's 'Portlandia'

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(Five stars out of 5)

IFC's Portlandia

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's Portland, Ore.-based
sketch-comedy series is back with a second season, with the same low-key,
improvised feel but the extra layer of polish that evidently comes with the
creators having more time to think, write and direct.

In the first season, certain sketches and catchphrases stood
out: put a bird on it, is the chicken local, "the dream of the '90s is alive in
Portland." As did selected guest-star appearances by Kyle MacLachlan, Steve
Buscemi and, especially, Armisen's Saturday Night Live castmate Jason Sudeikis.

This time, aside from a bit about a couple whose business is
pickling objects ("I can pickle that!"), there seem to be fewer catch-phrase
punchlines: the humor feels relaxed and comfortable. The main sketches in each
of the three reviewed episodes are impeccably crafted and structured. The guest
starring roles again are played to perfection, notably by Andy Samberg as a pompous
"mixologist," Jeff Goldblum as an impresario of knotted ropes as objets d'art
and Jack McBrayer as a shopper who sadly forgets to bring his own shopping bag
to a chi-chi Portland food market. Later this season, SNL's Kristen Wiig guests
as a rock-band stalker.

An extended sketch in episode 2 about a couple who become
obsessed with a certain TV show
-- OK, Battlestar Galactica -- combines
storyline, setting and casting to perfection. I tested it out with a viewer
who's not a Battlestar fan, and can certify it as too funny to risk spoiling by
saying more.

The dream of Portlandia is definitely alive, this season
with 10 episodes building on the formula that season one's six episodes,
produced around Armisen's SNL schedule, created through trial and occasional
error.

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