Portlandia S8E1: “Riot Spray”

Portlandia has always lived or died by its characters. More specifically, its ability to make its characters into something more than the obnoxiously cardboard, one-dimensional hipster stand-ins they were clearly conceived as. After all, how long can we be expected to laugh at Candace and Toni’s Breitbart-ready, man-hating feminism, or at Spyke because he’s that jerk bicyclist we’ve all encountered, turned up to eleven? “Look at this fucking hipster” is a Tumblr, not a TV show.

But show me Spyke successfully defending himself against Matt Groening’s plagiarism lawsuit, or the roots of Toni and Candace’s relationship in the macho corporate ’80s, and now I’ve got something that I can keep watching. Laugh with and at these fully drawn, if still haplessly stupid, hipster-adjacent people: that’s a show I’ll watch forever.

That is not to be, however, because Portlandia entered its final season tonight. Perhaps this season recap (if there is enough interest for me to do the whole season) can serve as a place for us to share favorite moments as well as laugh a bit about the most recent episode.

Season Eight, Episode One


• Spyke reunites his old punk band, but they’re all middle-aged now, and less interested in moshing than in drinking herbal tea and antiquing. For a seasoned actor, I felt like Rollins snubbed his lines a little bit, but I also saw an interview where he said they mostly ad-libbed, so maybe he was out of his depths on that.

• The Portland Police Bureau allows a pair of NPR hipsters to follow their officers around as they record a Serial-esque podcast about a recent murder. This was pretty spot-on in its re-creation of this kind of podcast, and fits nicely into Portlandia’s usual depiction of out-of-touch types mingling with normies. The Blue Apron delivery in the jail cell—I lol’ed. A clip from this was released on YouTube as a teaser last year, and one of the comments was “This is so accurate it’s amazing it totally captures how the media demonizes cops.” Can’t tell if …

• Candace brings Toni to her childhood summer home. These are the show’s most problematic characters, and I always go back and forth on whether I like them. Candace continues to overwhelm with her personality in this sketch.

• Brendan and Michelle consider buying a van. I didn’t really see the point of this sketch. The people who really go live in vans and RVs aren’t bourgeoise Portlanders like these two. Also, $35,000 for a mid-80s VW van, holy shit.

Guest stars:

Ed Begley, Jr.
Henry Rollins
Krist Novoselic
Brendan Canty (Fugazi)
Chris Funk (The Decemberists)

Stray thoughts:

• I’m not sure why the officers in the podcast sketch all have uniforms that say “Sheriff’s Department,” when the exterior shot clearly shows the Portland Police Bureau building (these are two separate agencies). Yes, I get hung up on stupid stuff.

• Additionally, Portland’s real-life police chief is a woman named Danielle Outlaw. I demand that she appear in a future episode.

• Spyke’s ear gauges have shrunk. Does that mean he’s selling out?