- Toni (Carrie Brownstein) and Candace (Fred Armisen) hold a fairly unsexy car wash.
When a show is consistently funny for more than a couple of seasons, it produces the uncomfortable tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The unfunny shoe. I’m not a religious Portlandia viewer. I watched all of the first season, and bits and pieces of the rest, and even saw Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s live show back in 2011ish, but I also suffered from butthole-puckering rage when “put a bird on it” became a thing people were compelled to say when they saw birds on things and sometimes, annoyingly enough, even when they didn’t see birds on things.
That said, it’s my impression that the show has gotten progressively better. The third season—the one with Chloe Sevigny—felt like a real high point, which could’ve spelled doom (or at least mild-to-moderate viewer disappointment) for the fourth.
Crisis averted. The show’s fourth season, which premieres February 27 on IFC, might be the best yet, at least based on the four episodes that were made available in advance for journalists. If it’s possible that a person can grow funnier even well into his 40s, Fred Armisen has, and that’s taking into account that he’s always been really funny. That or the big-eyed, mock sincerity he brings to his characters has become more infectious; wigs and prosthetic noses never hurt. Overall, though, it seems like the show’s become more accessible, and that’s not to say it’s any less weird. In fact, it occurred to me that maybe it had gotten weirder, but the sketches aren’t necessarily more or less absurd; they just seem more assured in their absurdity, probably because the overarching jokes and the ideas behind them are stronger. (All of the recurring sketches and characters are as good as ever.)
Like “The Celery Incident,” an extended sketch about the imaginary businessmen responsible for the marketing and success of individual vegetables. Steve Buscemi returns to the show as the woeful guy in charge of celery, who has to grapple with how unfair it is that it’s one of the few vegetables that can’t be made better by just adding some bacon. (He attempts to hatch a deal with the bacon representative nonetheless.) The fleeting thought that celery kind of sucks and that there’s not much anyone can do about it besides top it with peanut butter and raisins (equally lame) becomes a fleshed-out and funny mock noir. Of course Buscemi is great; it continues to be a testament to the show’s popularity among cool, smart famous-types that they get guests like him (and Jeff Goldblum and Olivia Wilde and St. Vincent and Jello Biafra).
Now we just have to hope that “rent it out”—watch the first episodes and you’ll see what I’m talking about—doesn’t become the new “put a bird on it.”