"Portlandia" never received mainstream recognition, but Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are probably fine with that. The show kicks off its eighth and final season this week, and since 2011, the show has always found the perfect niche, appealing to the small subsection of music-loving, internet-dwelling, Pacific Northwest hipsters it satirizes. Picking out the show's finest moments is tough since the show's charm is in the zany rhythm of its Portland vignettes and cadre of caricatures. So while some of these are fan favorites, others are obscure, locally sourced gems that have helped keep "Portlandia" weird.
“The Dream of the ‘90s” -
In the space of a catchy song, the show’s very first sketch sums up everything that would come to define “Portlandia.” It’s an irreverent musical number that’s a stylish genre parody with a deep affinity for Portland's culture. Also, check out how Fred and Carrie revisited the song with “The Dream of the 1890s.”
“Did You Read It?” -
This sketch pokes fun at the idea that keeping up with lengthy think pieces and magazine profiles isn’t about being informed, but is all about hipster cred. It’s a smart satire, but is also an early example of how “Portlandia” finds its distinct humor in incredibly fast editing and Fred and Carrie’s snappy cadence.
“The Simply Everything Plan” -
Fred and Carrie played their share of frustratingly helpful employees and store clerks in their day, but Kumail Nanjiani was always best at it. From gleefully describing the ups and downs of horrible cell phone plans to endlessly listing ways to spice up your meal at a restaurant with seemingly unlimited options, “Portlandia” had a knack for driving you up the wall with calmly pleasant hipster entrepreneurs with good intentions.
“Thai Food Bridgetown Weekly” -
What else does an alt-weekly need but a movie critic who likes Paul Thomas Anderson movies, music festival roundups, a punny cover story about legalizing weed, and Dan Savage? This is an inspired, underrated example of how “Portlandia” can spin something as mundane as bad Thai food into a nonsensical conspiracy.
“Battlestar Galactica” -
“Portlandia” didn’t invent binge watching, but they might’ve been the first to spoof it. Fred and Carrie’s crazed intensity over absorbing all of “Battlestar Galactica” makes this clip one of the show’s best on its own, but they take it to another level when they imagine Fred and Carrie approaching the wrong Ronald D. Moore, yet still recruit Edward James Olmos to re-enact their last bit of fan fiction. Also check out “Spoiler Alert!” for a good companion sketch.
"Social Bankruptcy" is a great example of how the show has evolved over the years. A social media overload themed sketch might not've registered in the same way in 2011, but today the idea that erasing your online presence might as well mean you're dead is as relevant as ever.
“The Studio” -
This one’s all Armisen, a chance for him to showcase that he’s actually a good drummer while doing an inane character more quietly in awe of gear and sound quality than anyone alive. And you know you’ve hit the nail on the head when your guest star can literally materialize out of thin air, not say a word and still serve a hilarious punchline.
“Put a Bird On It!” -
Fans are more impartial to other business ideas from the wonderfully named Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman, but “Put a Bird On It!” is the signature “Portlandia” sketch, sprucing up the world with one plastic sticker and an exclamation point at a time.
“The Knot Store” -
Jeff Goldblum was always destined to be on this show. The difference between his Knot Store and other examples of the show’s artisan light bulbs or movie theater food is that he’s a convincing enough salesman that you’d actually want to spend $50 on one of his tangled messes of headphones.
“The Portland Thinkers” -
Kyle MacLachlan’s exuberant mayor with half-brained plans for Portland and a minimal attention span. This early entry shows how he uses his optimistic charm to will Fred and Carrie into doing just about anything, even making a Sunday morning cartoon with a character as lame as “Batty Batterson.”
“Feminist Book Store” -
There are too many good “Women and Women First” sketches to choose from. Candace and Toni have been recurring favorites for a reason, transforming from droopy, uber-feminists to being outright belligerent over nothing. They've dumbfounded everyone from Steve Buscemi to Heather Graham with their obscure feminist theory, but this early entry with Aubrey Plaza as Armisen pathetically fails in an attempt to "reach" a book on their shelves remains a classic.
“Bad Art Good Walls” -
Fred and Carrie have a wonderful chemistry and repartee whenever they’re put in an office setting. “Bad Art Good Walls” is them riffing at their finest as they answer the eternal question, “Just where in the world did this coffee shop find that thing?”
“911 Beets Emergency” -
You wouldn’t expect “Portlandia” to pull off a “CSI” parody, but while this isn’t a riff on hipsters, it’s the show at its most irreverent best. “It’s always beets!”
“Shooting Star Preschool” -
If “Parks and Recreation” perfected lunatic Midwesterners in town halls, this sketch is “Portlandia’s” more indie twist on community and parental outrage. “She probably likes ‘Rock and Roll High School’ by The Ramones.” I mean, how can this woman be teaching our children!?!
“The Best Part is Going Home” -
This will be familiar to anyone who goes to shows regularly. It would’ve been enough to imagine the annoyances of any concert ever, but what makes the sketch great is its blissful reverie in slow motion about finally taking off that wristband and collapsing into bed. Oh, and don’t forget to wake up to buy Prince tickets!