PORTLANDIA: SEASON 2 – Blu-ray review

Portlandia: Season 2” can best be described as quirky and may take several skits to warm you up to its particular brand of humor.  The format of each show is a main skit throughout an entire episode broken up by either characters deviating into their own smaller skits or to have a completely different skit altogether.  It can be hard to evaluate individual skits because of this but it’s a good set-up for this type of humor.   The show specializes in annoying characters in annoying situations ending with a twist of lunacy.

The strength of the show is Fred Armisen and Carrie Bernstein’s ability to mimic identifiable situations.  Whether it’s a character having a Netflix movie sitting around forever because they are never in the mood to watch it, a couple getting obsessively hooked on a TV series and it taking over their lives or a skit making fun of the art at coffee shops, they are all topics most of us have either joked about or have even lived through ourselves.  Some of the skits may be more relevant to Portland however most of them can take place in any major city in the U.S.  In the extras it is mentioned that Portland, Oregon seems like a city that is “Just right.”  It is a quaint, picturesque city which imbues everything that other larger cities have.

Armisen’s strengths are his deadpan delivery and his occasionally extended stammering with certain characters.  He exudes confidence in the ridiculousness of his humor.  Bernstein’s performances are equally as funny.  She has the added bonus of playing the straight man more often.  You can tell they have an absolute love for what they do and have a lot of creative freedom to make it happen.  Notable guest performances by Andy Samberg, Jeff Goldblum, Eddie Veder, Kristen Wiig and a highly enthusiastic Kyle Maclachlan in a recurring role as Portland’s animated Mayor.  There are others too but to mention them would spoil some funny surprises.

“Portlandia” reminds me of the Ben Stiller Show from the mid 90’s. They each have a very small core group of actors that continually change into very drastic characters.  Both have an endearing quality even though many of their characters are either obnoxious, obtuse or completely out of touch.  Also, both shows have no problem turning a normal skit into something with an outlandish sci-fi ending.  Not every skit works.  Some of them overstay their welcome and others go too far towards a ridiculous conclusion.  There is some revisiting of previously successful skits from season 1 such as “Put a Bird on It” and “Dream of the 90’s” but with enough of an new twist on them to make it feel fresh again.

Video:
Presented in 1.78:1, season 2 of “Portlandia” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Every skit, every scene has great clarity and depth.  Due to the natural lighting of the show, there are varying amounts of color reproduction depending on exterior vs interior scenes. Indoor scenes look understandably a little flat compared to the outdoor scenes.  This 1080p HD presentation exceeds the televised quality by a large margin.

Audio:
There is no lossless option for this Blu-ray however there is a nice Dolby Digital 2.0 track that serves the material well.  Dialogue is clear and the accompanying music sounds great.  By now lossless tracks should be a standard for the Blu-ray format. It is a mystery why a known show with many followers does not warrant it.  Having said that, it it a great sounding 2.0 track.

Extras :
The main extras are lumped together in a section called “Specials”. The first special is called “Portlandia the Tour: Seatte and is a quick look of Fred and Carrie doing live shows in Seattle.  This is mostly shot with handheld video.  The next special is entitled “Inside Portlandia” in HD if you are a fan of the show this is a terrific little extra.  There is a lot of personal information about Carrie and Fred crammed into 23 minutes.  Another fascinating bit of knowledge in this special is finding out that director Jonathan Krisel is a huge creative factor in the show who came up with such skits as “Dream of the 90’s” and the overall music video style of the show.

Next is an extended director’s cut of the final episode on the disc.  There is 15 minutes of additional footage intercut throughout.  The last special is a deleted Scene for “Feminine Bookstore” characters trying to spend a gift card in a store filled with things they can’t stop mocking.
There is also a book excerpt from a new book coming out “Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors”.  It’s a quick glimpse into the format of the book.
Several episodes have commentaries with them.  Nothing too fancy but is a decent listen.

Bottom line:
“Portlandia: Season 2” is a successful return for Armisen and Bernstein.  Again, their show is quirky and is more of an acquired taste for some but it gets more right than it does wrong.  The skits are original and are tightly edited.  Terrific special guest appearance help bolster the already clever writing.  There are a handful of great extras that fans of the show with eat up.  With terrific video and great albeit lossy audio track, “Portlandia: Season 2” comes recommended.

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