Portlandia Recap: “A Song for Portland”

“Every time you point, I see a penis.”

“A Song for Portland” follows Fred and Carrie as the mayor of Portland (played by Kyle MacLachlan from Twin Peaks) asks them to create a Portland theme song. (Fun Fact: Sam Adams, the real mayor of Portland, plays the mayor’s assistant, and he’s funny!) The show’s format seems to be established now: Take a basic overarching plot and interrupt it with unrelated scenes of Portland’s finest pretentions. This time we were treated to bird art fanatics, bicycle right fanatics, animal right fanatics, safeword fanatics, and of course, the Women & Women First ladies, whose latest victim was Aubrey Plaza.

Most of these characters can be found in the ThunderAnt videos — the theme song arc, the bookstore ladies, the bicycle rights guy — and I have to admit, I spent a little too much time wondering whether I had a right to be irked about this. But we’re only two episodes in, and Fred and Carrie now have a bigger audience to entertain, so I suppose it’s all right to give some of their older ideas a second chance to shine.

For me, the highlight of the episode was when Fred and Carrie switch genders and play a couple whose safeword “cacao” goes a little out of control. Fred is always fabulous as a lady, and here he’s extra hilarious as a clueless and sexually defensive girlfriend who likes to talk her boyfriend’s ear off. And Carrie, good Lord! Carrie as the horny, aloof boyfriend was one of the weirdest and funniest things I’ve seen in a while. “Will you be a brave girl for me?” she asks Fred as the girlfriend, leaning toward her in bed in hopes that this time he won’t get cock-blocked by cacao again. These two continue to target the more elusive (but still deserving) subjects while staying good-hearted in nature. One could quickly descend into cruelty while mocking these kinds of hipster Portland figures, but Fred and Carrie identify with them as much as they make fun of them. They’re just keeping it real, guys.

Another great scene came at the end when the mayor’s computer couldn’t read the CD with the theme song. (“Is this a CD-R or CD+R?”) It’s a lot of the same technology chaos like in last week’s “Mind-Fi” sketch: They look for a CD player, they try to find the wifi password, they look for firewires and speaker adapters and headphones, they try to send it through cell phone emails, the email gives the mayor’s computer a virus, the computer needs to be shut down, then the mayor magically remembers that there’s a drum and guitar in the other room. It’s one of the many sadly laughable contradictions Portlandia continues to discover, but it never lingers too long to get too serious. And with only four episodes left, lingering isn’t really an option.

Megh Wright is a writer, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is a Gawker TV contributor.

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