Episode Title: "Mixology"
Writers: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto & Jonathan Krisel
Director: Jonathan Krisel
There's something joyous about the inherent insanity of "Portlandia." Having only visited Portland, I can't speak for the accuracy of the characters presented within the show. But Portland is a beautiful city and I can see why people fall in love with it.
Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are both clearly in love with Portland and its people, even as they mock some of the stranger characters within. Brownstein and Armisen also have a light comic touch that can be very effective. And yet there are also times that they don't appear to know when to end a sketch nor do they seem to realize that a bit isn't working. It's the same kind of tone-deafness that sometimes strikes "Saturday Night Live" and other sketch comedies. The performers are so engrossed in the show that they can't recognize that not all of their material is gold.
The best part of the second season premiere of "Portlandia" follows Carrie and Fred as they pursue a mixologist portrayed by Andy Samberg. Andy puts together a drink for Carrie with so much skill and love that even Fred realizes that Andy loves her, despite their only previous meeting occurring in a summer camp. Fred is so gung-ho about Carrie repaying the favor with a mixtape that the non-couple couple instantly decides to follow Andy to California after learning that he took a new job in Los Angeles.
Once in LA, Carrie and Fred are comically alarmed by the sun in the sky and its affects on their pasty white skin. They even don burkas to walk across the city. But the highpoint comes when Fred and Carrie go to an international themed restaurant where a waiter (Kumail Nanjiani) refuses to let them finish their order until he fully explains the complicated menu.
When Carrie and Fred finally find Andy, he's become a typical LA doucebag and he no longer recognizes her. To breakthrough his metamorphosis, Carrie sings a song from their summer camp and Andy hilariously transforms back to his Portand-self before agreeing to return to the city with Fred and Carrie. It's wacky and fun.
Unfortunately, none of the other skits were quite as amusing. Toni and Candice from the Women and Women bookstore returned for another round of hyperfeminism that fell flat against an A/C repairman who couldn't say anything to them without being shouted down for his male-centric word choices. As screeching caricatures, Toni and Candice need stronger foils to bring out comedic reactions from their victims . When carrying the bulk of the skit's dialog as they do here, Toni and Candice become almost unbearable to watch. It's just not very funny.
Another skit that goes on for far too funds a woman who is harassed by three generations of an overbearing family because of her refusal to sign a petition without reading it. The sketch about Kath and Dave on the river also seemed flat and unfunny.
The opening sketch about the two pickle enthusiasts, Lisa and Bryce had a few amusing moments, but it still wore out its welcome before "Portlandia" jumped away. Regardless, the callback to it later in the episode offered a nice chuckle.
"Portlandia" definitely isn't for everyone. Brownstein and Armisen seem to be at their best when portraying Carrie and Fred; who seem to be exaggerated versions of themselves. When in those parts, Brownstein and Armisen are very charming. The rest of the characters I could live without.
Crave Online Rating: 6.8 out of 10.