Jess Blumensheid
Writer | Editor | Nomad


Portlandia, the Third Season

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and IFC.

I recently interviewed Carrie Brownstein about her perfect day in Portland, in time for the third season premiere of her IFC comedy show, Portlandia, which she co-stars and -produces with Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen. Here are a few excerpts from that same interview in which she divulges about what to expect in the new season, as well as which PDX cultural trends are on the rise. 

What can we expect from Season III?
We made an effort to expand character exploration and to have stronger narrative arcs that took place not only over single episodes but over the entire season. Portlandia has never totally felt like a sketch show—this season we wanted people to find a bigger emotional connection to the show. By developing the characters further and making them more multifaceted and multidimensional was a way to do that. 

Who's guest starring this season?
We have Kyle MacLachlan, who is back as the mayor, as well as Chloe Sevigny, who plays a major role specifically to Fred and Carrie as their new roommate. We have Roseanne Barr, who I'm very excited about. Although television is  stronger than ever, her show as a single entity is incendiary and ahead of its time. We have two great British comedians, Matt Lucas and Matt Berry, as well as Rose Byrne, who is a fantastic actress. I love her in Damages, and she's shown some great comedian shots in Bridesmaids.

We also have Jim GaffiganBill Hader, Martina Navratilova, the band Dirty Projectors and J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. All of the guest stars are people whose sensibility we admired and whose career paths have always taken a turn for the weird and the unusual. Their participation in the show in the vague world of Portlandia felt very organic and not overly contrived.

Portland has often been described as the third character of Portlandia. How has your relationship changed with this character since the preliminary era of the Thunderant videos?
Aside from recognizability, my life here is very much the same. I've lived my entire life in the Northwest, so this is a very innate lifestyle for me. I've always incorporated in my writing the notion of landscape and the observation about the Northwest's inhabitants, so Portlandia is just an extension of that.

My relationship with the city hasn't changed much—if anything, it makes me appreciate it more. People from all over the country and the world have talked about how they relate to the show and how they live in a community, a city or a neighborhood where people do things that are akin to behavior in Portland. Somehow, Portland still maintains a uniqueness that's not like Williamsburg or Silver Lake, LA. 

How do locals respond to the perception of their city on Portlandia?
It’s mixed. People who come up to me give overwhelmingly positive feedback. I'm aware there are some who don't get or don't like the show. That's quite all right with me. Things that are innocuous are boring. The conversation that the show foments about whether or not this kind of progressive, highly curated life in Portland is meaningful, silly or important is a conversation people have among their friends or write about in newspapers or on blogs.

Portlandia is one part of that conversation, and whether people put Portlandia as something that's funny, not funny, trenchant or awesome, that's okay with me. I'd rather have it be divisive because that makes for a more interesting, critical debate or polemic than just, "Eh, that's okay." Ambivalence surrounding anything creative makes it feel like you're not pushing hard enough. I'd rather have somebody be angry or bothered than just offer a shoulder-shrug. 

What are some emerging foodie trends in Portland?
Foraging is popular right now. "Local" has trumped "organic," and people are interested in the story behind their meal. There's going to be a competition to see what story can get more exotic, outlandish and obscure in terms of how that food reached the kitchen or the plate.

Restaurants feel exclusive, and there's going to be—and this is already happening—a resurgence of secret society restaurants underground, where you get on an email list or a wait-list to eat the food of somebody running a restaurant out of their home. Of course that existed in Portland early on, but I think the bootleg restaurant trend is going to become more popular because we know there are so many great restaurants here that the novelty of it is wearing off. The food cart craze has felt like that, with the secret handshake. But we've reached critical mass with that. 

What about cultural trends? I hear there's a Magic: Regathering on the rise...
If people are going back to the fantasy world, maybe roleplaying is coming back or there's a push toward getting offline and getting in these real gatherings. For whatever reason, I think there's going to be a return to these gathering places that are in the real world as opposed to virtual. Young spirituality and religion is going to come back, but I'm not even saying it's going to be based on Judeo-Christian or anything.  I think there's going to be a resurgence of cults, but ironic cults, or like a sow WiFi movement, where people are going to yearn for a time when it was dial-up or things took longer.