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Portlandia Recap! Episode Two: "One Moore Episode"



Full disclosure: your humble Portlandia recapper lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and has a handful of friends who reside in Portland, Oregon. Whenever I ask my pals in these two hipster enclaves if they're watching Portlandia, the across-the-board response is: "I don't think that show's really that funny," or "Nah, it's kind of overhyped." This is surprising to me for a number of reasons, chiefly: Portlandia is one of the sharpest satires on TV in years! It is SO funny. Even if the show is poking fun at the hipster culture that we all participate in, surely we can take a step back and laugh at ourselves, right? But much in the same way that my Greek parents were horrified by My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie denied standard tax breaks to the production of Jersey Shore, it's harder to stomach comedy when you feel you're not laughing along with the audience, because they're laughing at you.

In "One Moore Episode," the second episode of Portlandia's second (so far, so stellar) season, Fred and Carrie come closest to developing a thesis statement for the show, one that reveals that this isn't simply a zany sketch comedy romp like Mr. Show or Kids in the Hall, but a comedic social commentary about how hipsters see themselves. In the third sketch of Friday night's episode, Jeff Goldblum guest-stars as Alan, the foppish owner of an artisan knot store. Fred and Carrie visit the shop (after reading about it in the Sunday Times) looking to buy a knot to give to a friend as a housewarming gift. They end up buying a set of tangled-up iPod earbuds. "An artist that we work with makes these by jamming them in his pocket," Goldblum says. "You can pair these with a rosé or even a burgundy." Fred and Carrie present the gift at the party, and the hostess takes the gift, goes down to her basement and places it on a table filled with other artisan knot gifts. The (very funny) joke: Hipsters pride themselves on thinking they're so unique, but in essence, they're all the same. It's a hipster's worst nightmare. The punchline to the sketch was the first time I could see why Portlandia gives my Portlander and Greenpoint friends the willies.

Because Fred and Carrie sharpen their claws with the writing in "One Moore Episode," it's also one of the series' sharpest episodes. The cold open sketch, "Allergy Pride Parade" casts Fred and Carrie as TV presenters at a Portland parade celebrating people who suffer from allergies to wheat, makeup, soy, bug bites, milk, Pad Thai and on and on. The sketch ends with Carrie's character dying because she's allergic to dextrose. I love that Portlandia doesn't shy away from heightening a sketch to the point where someone dies from the game of the scene. The show's fearlessness in getting laughs (and getting really dark sometimes) is one of its strengths.

The episode's title sketch, "One Moore Episode," finds Fred and Carrie getting dangerously addicted to Battlestar Galactica. Anyone who has watched that show (or The Wire or Doctor Who or Downton Abbey) can attest to the experience of needing to watch "one more episode" of the serial again and again to the point of exhaustion. This sketch taps into that TV viewing experience and heightens it to the point where Fred and Carrie lose their jobs from watching so much Battlestar. When they run out of episodes to watch, they track down (who they think is) the show's writer, Ronald D. Moore, to write one more episode. It climaxes with a hilarious read-through, featuring Edward James Olmos, and the actual Ronald D. Moore as a local Portland actor who is "currently playing the Mad Hatter."

This episode also features one of the biggest guest-stars of the season, Pearl Jam frontman (and Carrie's former Sleater-Kinney tourmate) Eddie Vedder. Kudos to Vedder, who's usually described as a humorless dude, for being game to poke fun at himself. The sketch's premise -- having a terrible tattoo - leads to some super silly animation, and even though Vedder is such a good sport, you can see why he hasn't acted since 1992's Singles. Vedder should stick to crooning "Betterman" and leave the acting to Anthony Kiedis.

Dowload "One Moore Episode" on iTunes here!

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