Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia has amounted to a kind of frenzied pedicab tour of the city of Portland, Oregon by way of Apple Maps. Though residents of the city continue to debate whether or not the series is good for local tourism, cameos by mayor Sam Adams would seem to suggest a loving symbiosis between the city and its fictional depiction. Yet in the show’s third season, Armisen and Brownstein seek to expand both its audience and its relevance, making several excursions outside the city limits.
The series continues its somewhat more combative tone with respect to today’s youth in another music-related sequence set outside Portland’s city limits. Playing old-school punk “Gen Xers,” Armisen and Brownstein recruit Kurt Loder and other symbols of MTV’s heyday to “take back” the network from tweens. They head to Times Square and raid MTV’s headquarters, successfully taking over the airwaves from the head honcho, a world-weary tween girl, who coldly insists “music is dead.” The girl then goes on to point out the irony of nostalgia victims trying to “take back the youth-oriented channel from the youth.” Given that even the older generation refuses to tune in, she turns out to be right. By this point, the depiction of failed revolutions has already become one of the season’s winning comic routines.
A jab at raw milk curdles on arrival, and the scene in which a girl spends her entire meditation class fantasizing about the man across from her feels like a joke we’ve already seen a dozen times, but these are exceptions to the rule. Portlandia’s best gags instead all seem to embody a kind of post-Occupy disillusionment, and season three’s less provincial outlook ensures the show’s continued relevance. It’s less intensely fixated on the city from which the series derives its name, and Armisen and Brownstein’s willingness to expand the scope of its satire has ultimately led to something more sustainable, if a little less local.-Slant