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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Portlandia is a quirky comedy that 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.
Simulated sex acts, Season 1, episode 2
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Minus strip clubs and safe words, this would be 5 stars
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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?
This series 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.
Portlandia, 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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the characters in Portlandia. 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?
- Premiere date: January 21, 2011
- Cast: Carrie Brownstein, Fred Armisen, Kyle MacLachlan, Steve Buscemi
- Network: IFC
- Genre: Comedy
- TV rating: NR
- Last updated: February 4, 2023
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