When it was originally airing on IFC, I caught a sketch or two (the hide-and-seek sketch and maybe another) of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's sketch comedy show Portlandia. On a superficial and incomplete initial perusal, my reaction was that of indifference. The hide-and-seek sketch wasn't particularly funny with the exception of the old woman. Based on that*, it seemed likely that Portlandia would think that it was a lot cuter than it actually was, coming across as cloying.
*Well, that and the fact that Fred Armisen was never particularly funny on the extremely unfunny Saturday Night Live. With the possible exception of his faux interview with Jeff Tweedy in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, I couldn't muster one example of when I'd been taken with something he had done. Given the fact that Carrie Brownstein was known simply as half of Sleater-Kinney heading into this trepidation was understandable.
It takes no more than the first sketch of the first episode to blow notions of mediocrity apart. Portlandia was so good that it took one sketch for me to shut down the computer and watch the entire six-episode run in a sitting with no distractions.
Maybe my reaction stems from living in Austin, what has to be the most similar city to Portland in the US, but there was a lot of material here that really hit where recent attempts at launches of other sketch shows did not*. The Aimee Mann sketches were hilarious. The song to kick the series off had me laughing hysterically. The leash sketch struck a nerve with me. The fixed-gear character seemed all-too-familiar in a way that a large segment of society may not get.
*Funny or Die anyone?
The issue here is whether or not the jokes are too insular to a certain subset of society. They probably are. This may not play well in Peoria, as the saying goes, but I'm damn sure never going to live in Peoria. As long as that's the case, I think there's a lot of room for enjoyment with Portlandia.
The second season starts airing this Friday night, and you best believe that I'll be there watching with bells on. IFC. 10 PM, 9 C. Be there.