Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Portlandia: “One Moore Episode”

Illustration for article titled Portlandia: “One Moore Episode”

There's something incredibly optimistic about Portlandia and its vision of a world where the problems aren't pressing, wealth-accumulation is gauche, and we're all able to develop our interests into ever more complex fractal patterns of hobbydom. But part of season two's strength is its willingness to look beyond Portland, or even focus on the darker side of "the place where young people go to retire."

Case in point: last week Fred and Carrie got a taste of life outside the bubble and it didn't agree with them, but maybe some more SoCal clubbing and car exhaust was just what the doctor ordered. Some theorize that without enough stiff competition, our immune systems go a little stir-crazy and start attacking peanuts and wheat germ—or in the sad case of Portlandia's Annabelle Schumaker, air, water, and sun.

"One Moore Episode" was the most-hyped element in this much-hyped season, and the Allergy Pride Parade is as good an introduction as any to the show's off-beat but accessible, medium-burn comedy. Armisen's dead-eyed commentator Marc Gemmer is especially funny here, and seeing as how he survives the event (RIP Linda), I'm hoping we're treated to his defeated, hollow laughter again. His delivery of the line "A little cow guy. That's a good idea. Ha. Ha. Ha." has to be the most tragic thing to happen on the show so far.

Oh, and for anyone who read last week's recap but missed my subsequent correction: editor Doug Lussenhop is returning this season, and whether or not he had anything to do with cutting the parade, his sensibility is all over it, what with the biker gang's exaggerated slap sound effects and the incredibly unflattering (and recent!) picture of Linda that ran after her death.

I'm assuming that the wrap-around plot for this episode will hit disturbingly close to home for many of you. I know it did for me, especially considering I blazed through three episodes of Battlestar Galactica before sitting down for this recap. For Doug and Claire, a night that begins with catching one quick episode before heading out to meet social obligations quickly spirals into BSG addiction, bladder infections and pink slips. Soon, the couple's openly hostile to anyone who threatens to horn in on their week-long TV party. And for anyone keeping score, second in the running for best delivery this episode has to be Carrie Brownstein's cheery "Well, I lost my job!"

This is the ugly side to Portlandia's culture of comfortably low ambitions. It's maybe a little too easy to slide down the economic totem pole from crunchy hipsterdom to newly homeless. With little else going on in their lives, Doug and Claire rustle up a Ronald D. Moore to help them write new episodes of their beloved serialized drama. And with a script in the can they gather around a cramped kitchen with James Callis and Edward James Olmos, who paints another layer of surreality onto an already surreal situation when he points out, "that's not the real Ronald D. Moore"—right in front of the real Ronald D. Moore! (Who is playing local actor and BSG neophyte Ken Reynolds in this scene.)

It's a nice, neat, satisfying plot to wind the rest of the sketches around, even if it's not a huge laugh-getter itself. I'm curious to know, though, how well this episode worked for those of you who haven't yet plunked BSG into your Netflix queues. Is it still funny without the 'Aha!'s of recognition the rest of us are indulging in?

And since this is the most guest-packed sketch show in recent memory, Jeff Goldblum makes an appearance as a knot store proprietor looking to unload a particular "contemporary knot" that's actually just some iPhone headphones that underwent a routine pocket tangling. I feel like I'm putting myself at great personal risk in saying this, but Jeff Goldblum feels like a bellwether of lackluster comedy material—at least when sketch or sketch-y material is involved. I'm thinking specifically of his appearances in Tom Goes To The Mayor and Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! In Portlandia, as on those shows, Goldblum launches into his mumbly Goldblum schtick (which is, admittedly, very entertaining), and the sketch sort of happens around him in an undercooked, non-committal sort of way.

I have similar feelings about the burning-man fire-pit sketch that preceded it, which had a few good lines but lacks any punch or a real point of view. I resolved last season to accept that this show is going to have a certain number of misfires every episode, as I assume it's an inevitable byproduct of Portlandia's prioritizing of editing and improv over writing.

But if "Knots" and "Fire Pit" were baggy and shapeless, "Bad Tats" is a fast-moving, whip-smart sketch with more than its share of great lines. For me, even more than the Battlestar through-line, this is the centerpiece of the episode. And now, I think the award for third greatest line delivery of the night goes to Eddie Vedder. I loved the exchange between him and Carrie: "Yeah, it's a tattoo." "Oh, tell me it's not a bad one." "It's pretty bad." and my only quibble would be with the ending, but only because I think the bar has been raised this season.

After Vedder revealed his sweet Ani DiFranco tat, I thought about how strange it was, the way just being reminded that Ani DiFranco exists had me giggling, but I think it has less to do with Mrs. DiFranco herself and more to do with hearing about someone my brain had become accustomed to not thinking about for the last decade. It's a minor shock just hearing her name, much less seeing her in tattoo form.

So, a solid start to season two with, not-surprisingly, a couple shaky sketches tossed in for good measure. If memory serves, next week's episode "Cool Wedding" suffers the first real drop in quality, but maybe I'll change my tune on second viewing.