“Remember when people were content to be unambitious and sleep ‘til 11, and just hang out with their friends, and no occupations whatsoever, and content to just work a couple hours a week at a coffee shop?” “Huh, I thought that died out a long time ago.” “Not in Portland. Portland is a city where young people go to retire.” THE DREAM OF THE 90s IS ALIVE IN PORTLAND.
We’ve just watched the first episode of PORTLANDIA, the new sitcom from US cable network IFC, and know what? We think we’ll be sticking with it. Set in Portland, Oregon, it’s a series where it never really stopped being the 1990s. Where flannel shirts never lost their allure, where independently owned coffee shops remained just about viable, where Al Gore might as well (have) be(en) President Of The USA. And, from a minute in on the clip just below, it’s got a brilliant theme tune (that isn’t actually the theme tune, it’s a song that opens the series, but shush).
Pleasingly, the ninetiesness of the show isn’t reflected by merely throwing in a load of references to pop culture of the age (the only direct ref in the entire opening episode was about The Jim Rose Sideshow Circus, which is easily obscure enough to be permitted), but more about the overall ‘feel’ of the age. Idealistic slackers spend a lot of time ‘inventing’ new pasttimes like ‘Adult Hide And Seek’ or fret so much over the organic nature of the chicken on the menu in a diner they insist on visiting the farm that reared it before ordering their meal. There’s even a role in the opening episode played by Steve Buscemi, the most 1990s actor there is.
Going by the opening episode, it’s not yet mindblowingly hilarious, but then, we have only seen the opening episode, and how many opening episodes of anything are that good? V few. Larry Sanders, yes, but we’re part way through a big update on how wonderful the DVD box set of that is.
Certainly a series to stick with, in essence. If you put a gun to our heads and demanded we make a lazy comparison with two other off-kilter comedy series, we’d run out of the room screaming for the police, but if you asked up the same question more politely, we’d say “a bit like The League Of Gentleman meets Mr Show”. Yes, it’s exec produced by Lorne Michaels, but we really do think it’s more likely to lean towards the comedic standard of 30 Rock than Saturday Bloody Night Bloody Live.