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<I>Portlandia</I>: The Best Show About A Pacific Northwest City with Population Under 700,000

Portland, Oregon is unlike any other place you might want as the basis of a TV show. Actually, it's probably the last place you might think of for the basis of a TV show. It's a place where "young people go to retire," you can still go to clown school and be considered cool, people choose to ride bikes/unicycles/skateboards over cars, and "you can put a bird on something and just call it art." Essentially, Portland encompasses the dream of the 90's, for better or worse. And IFC's hysterical new series Portlandia flaunts all of that like a proudly worn plaid shirt you got from a thrift store. Just don't mistake them for their evil counterpart, Seattle.

Portlandia, which stars Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (formerly of Portland-based band Sleater-Kinney), has the same sort of indie, and very weird humor as Flight of the Conchords and The Sarah Silverman Program. So while some of us may still be mourning the death of those shows, Portlandia helps the recovery process with each sketch consistently funnier than most of the SNL sketches Armisen has been in this season.

The show starts out with Bryce Shivers (Armisen) and Lisa Eversman (Brownstein) showing off all of their crafts and creations that are magically made better when you "put a bird on it!" until an actual bird flies in and grosses them out while knocking over everything in the store. In the next sketch, Kyle MacLachlan (Desperate Housewives plays a seriously out-there mayor of Portland who typed up an award for "Best Official Website for Cities with Populations Under 700,000 in Pacific Northwest Area" to present to himself and he also has a strong disdain for Seattle (which would probably be the only other city in that website category). He enlists Carrie and Fred to create a theme song for a Portland ad campaign, with only one specification: "please don't make it like Seattle."

The next few sketches clearly mock the indie/hipster culture of Portland, with Armisen riding around the city on a bike making it clear to everyone in his vicinity that he's on a bike while hating on any other mode of transportation. "Ugh, cars, man WHY?!" The best is when he screams "WHOLE FOODS IS CORPORATE" as he rides past one and "go vegan!" while riding through a store. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) has a cameo in the next sketch, appropriately playing a very annoyed college student who needs to get books for her women's studies class from the Women & Women First bookstore run by Brownstein and Armisen in drag. They're not very helpful in getting her the books she needs ("Different Daughters" and "Vaginas: An Owner's Manual"), but try to persuade her to take one of their classes, in which she responds that she has a poledancing fitness class that day, and upon hearing this, the women's bookstore owners nearly freak out. The college student sees the book she needs on a shelf and points it out to the owners, and Brownstein's character asks her to stop pointing because "every time you point I see a penis." Another memorable quote comes from the sketch where they play a couple eating at an outside café when they start freaking out because someone's dog was tied up to a street sign. After they make a huge scene about it, they untie the dog right before the owner and his little girl come back for it, in which Brownstein yells at him "who puts their dog on a pole like a stripper?" They angrily storm off, only to stop at the corner of the street where their infant son is tied up to a street sign.

Portlandia cleverly mocks this land of co-ops, organic everything and bird art while making it seem like a wonderfully careless place to live. It's ironic because no matter how laid-back these slightly exaggerated Portland characters try to be (remember the 90's?), they always seem to be freaking out over whatever beliefs they're trying to let everyone know how they feel about. Like a clash between slacker and activist, it kinda makes you want to visit Portland just to see if it's as ridiculously amusing as Portlandia is. Or if they really hate Seattle that much.

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