Saturday, February 18, 2012
So I watched season one of Portlandia on Netflix a few days back, I'd gone into it expecting some kind of documentary about hipsters, instead I got a sketch comedy show about hipsters. Sounds awful right? Surprisingly it wasn't, it felt a bit like Kids In The Hall, which is something I don't think I've ever said about a show since Kids In The Hall, so I see it as a very welcome thing. Anyways, I hop over to IMDB to check out all the pertinent facts and I find a review proclaiming Portlandia to be complete bollocks and in fact a rip off of an earlier BBC series called Black Books. Now, I'm generally a fan of what the BBC does, so a show that I liked being an inferior copy from a company that I find generally does above average work was exciting news indeed. I rushed to download the entire series and see what a marvelous wonder it was sure to be.
I cue up the first episode and I see two familiar looking faces who I'm sure can only be a good sign of things to come. Dylan Moran who I recalled as being a prominent character from Shaun of the Dead and Bill Bailey who I probably remember from some stand up television special. Being that Portlandia is supposedly derivative of this show I come into it expecting sketch comedy.
It's a sitcom, which is strike one. Sitcoms are where comedy goes to retire. The only exception to this rule is Spaced, and possibly the intentionally edgy sitcoms such as Married With Children and It's Always Sunny In Phillidelphia depending on how generous I'm being. Spaced is the only one that was genuinely good though. Seinfeld was pretty good for a while, it just went on for too long. Whatever, Black Books, it's funnier than Friends. That's about as much praise as I'm willing to give it in comparing it to other sitcoms.
Visually it's very boring outside of the opening credits. They ask you to imagine a lot of things, like vermin on the floor or filth at angles the camera never shoots. The two or three times they film outside of the studio it's quite refreshing, but these moments are quite brief. I really can't help but feel so much more could've been done in that regard.
The music...what's there ranges from unnoticeable to pretty good. The opening credits are by far my favorite part of the entire show. There's canned laughter, I'm never a fan of that. That's pretty much all there is on that front really
Overall, it's not a bad show, had I come into it objectively without such high expectations I'd probably not have been quite so disappointed with it. If you've got nothing better it's a pretty watchable series with one or two stand out episodes mostly in the second season. Fever in particular is an episode I remember getting a laugh out of, mostly because it didn't focus quite so much on the main character Bernard and instead focused more on his side-kicks, the ever quirky Manny and Fran who's kind of the normal one. There's a few celebrity guest appearances, most notably Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of Shaun Of The Dead fame. So there's that going for it.