Posted by: David Stewart | January 18, 2011

Portland Jumps the Shark (Opinion | Portlandia)

There is no question about it: Portland currently has a lot of street cred. Just read the New York Times, if you were not aware.

In the US, Portland (Oregon) is now considered to be a haven for young artistic creatives, the ecologically-minded, and progressive politics.

Or it’s just where those hippy-dippy, artsy-fartsy freaks hang out. Depends on your perspective. It’s where the 90s never really ended – "you can add a bird to anything and call it art." 

So it should come as no surprise that Portland is the satirical target of those wags of the elite in New York. This week, Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live premiers his new comedy show Portlandia on pay TV. Ironically, Portland has some of the highest rates of people who don’t subscribe to pay TV in the US. (But fortunately you can watch it on Hulu if you must).

It was 30 minutes of sketch comedy in the style of SNL: arch, winking and knowing. I have to admit, I think about 25% of SNL’s bits are pretty funny, but I tend to fast-forward through most of them. Sometimes it’s because I don’t consider the topic very funny or they are joking about a pay TV show that – wait for it – I have never seen before.

Armisen takes turns leading a competitive adult hide-and-seek team, acting as someone addicted to the text-email-Netflix data stream, a feminist woman "if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention" and a restaurant patron who really really wants to get to know their food. (And gives a credit to Steve Tolopka who appears for a moment in the show’s opening song).

A city which is the focus of the media’s unblinking eye often does not appreciate the attention. I remember how the people of New Orleans really didn’t like K-ville, a crime drama about the post-Katrina city. So it’s now Portland’s turn. (It’s a good thing I live in Beaverton).

Portlandia is one step too far. It’s proof that the city’s popularity has reached an unhealthy peak and must decline from here. We’ve jumped the shark, folks. They will just begin to revile us from here.


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