Portlandia

 
Quirky comedy about hipsters is mild but meant for adults.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Quirky characters are made fun of, but still appreciated. The overall message of the show is to take life less seriously.

Positive role models

The show gently makes fun of people, so no one is really a role model. But the female lead (and co-producer), Carrie Brownstein, who is much better known for her work in Portland indie rock band Sleater-Kinney, is a positive role model for girls interested in comedy and music.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

A character is a polygamist and squeezes another character's buttocks. Some simulated sex with thrusting movements, but no nudity.

Language

Occasional language like "bitch," "hooker," and "pimp."

Consumerism

Gadgets such as iPads, iPhones, and laptops are used as a joke, as are different websites.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A character says she is addicted to her herbal tea, and then says addiction is funny. Rare background drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this quirky comedy gently teases its intended audience of post-hip adults in their 30s and 40s, but otherwise has little iffy content. The show's humor is based on familiarity with the '90s, and the trends and characteristics of Portland, OR, and similar hip, progressive cities, which means most of the show's jokes may be lost on teens too young to understand the references.

What's the story?

This new six-part IFC comedy series, featuring Carrie Brownstein (singer/guitarist from Sleater-Kinney) and Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live), pokes fun at Portland, Oregon's various subcultures and tendencies. Brownstein and Armisen present characters including feminist book store workers, bird-decorating home designers, organic farmers, hide-and-seek game league members, and punk rockers, among others. Much of the original music is written and performed by the pair. Series' guests include Kyle MacLachlan, Aubrey Plaza, Heather Graham, Gus Van Sant, Aimee Mann, and Selma Blair. The series is entirely shot on location in Portland, OR.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

PORTLANDIA is very, very funny if you're one of the audience members who can appreciate its context. Prerequisites for understanding and enjoying the finer points of its skits include some knowledge of Portland (or the idea of Portland), feminist bookstores, organic small farms, tech geekery, and hyperliteracy. That said, many parents in their 30s and 40s qualify nicely for enjoying the references to Tucker Max, free range organic heritage chicken, and iPad overuse. And while kids may not get it, they'll likely find some of the visual gags and back-and-forth banter between Brownstein and Armisen funny.

The show, which is shot entirely in and around Portland, is spot-on in its portrayal of cool, progressive cities that perhaps take themselves a bit too seriously. While the subcultures portrayed in the skits are definitely used as the butt of the jokes, these jokes are usually rather gentle. You can tell that Armisen and Brownstein appreciate Portland and its inhabitants, from the transgender feminists to the agro, self-righteous bicyclists to the coffee shop slackers. While the show may be limiting its audience given its specific setting, those that do get Portlandia will find it absolutely hilarious.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the show's characters. Why do Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein make fun of their characters? Why is it funny? Do you think it is mean? Why or why not? Have you met people similar to those they portray?

  • Families can talk about context. Do you know anything about the city of Portland, Oregon? Do you think you would appreciate the show more if you lived in Portland? Is it necessary to know something about the types of people that are being portrayed in the series, such as punk rockers, to appreciate the humor?

  • Do you find it funny when actor Fred Armisen dresses as a woman? Why do you think dressing in drag is funny? Do you think he is making fun of women or just playing a character?

TV details

Cast:Carrie Brownstein, Fred Armisen, Kyle MacLachlan, Steve Buscemi
Network:IFC
Genre:Comedy
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Portlandia was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bymrswillard January 4, 2012
age 15+
 

Was hilarious; got gross quick

The pilot was completely hilarious. There's a second where a polygamist "gooses" another man, and that man becomes one of his "wives"—but it's all silly. The second episode we had to turn off halfway through, because of the thrusting and sex. No, it doesn't show nudity, but it is still completely inappropriate for kids and young teens.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written bytheironichipster June 23, 2012
age 14+
 

PUT A BIRD ON IT!

You may find it ironic that I rated this as 14 and up even though i'm 13 myself, but i'm told to be very mature for my age. If you're a mature kid then this show will be fine. Most probably just find this show uncouth and odd but if you understand hipster terminology then this shows provides great laughs. Portlandia is one of my favorite shows, but probably isn't for most kids my age. Basically, it's appropriate for ages 14 & up but only adults will find the humor in Portlandia.
Kid, 12 years old January 20, 2012
age 13+
 

Quirky and Hilarious for the Mature Viewers

Portlandia is a quirky show, that any SNL fan will love! Some sketches are inappropriate for younger viewers, but you should know your child's maturity. Overall, I know that I'll be watching Portlandia in the future!
What other families should know
Too much sex

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass