Portlandia has been a part of television comedy for 8 seasons now but sadly it’s final season starts this Thursday.
One of the biggest questions that people from Portland Oregon Want to know is how has the show changed Portland since it first hit the air in 2011.
The biggest way that Portland has changed is that the city is no longer a “quirky”, weird city filled with artists, writers, musicians and bohemians. That’s all been replaced by condos, tech jobs and people who have moved to Portland in recent years to escape the rising cost of housing in California.
Yes, it’s true that we can’t blame the changing face of Portland on Portlandia since economics and other factors have made the city a major relocation destination over the last 7 years. But, the show has certainly attracted a large amount of people who were/are attracted to the people, attitudes and tastes shown on Portlandia.
In August 2015, Willamette Week, the alternative weekly in Portland, Oregon, categorically declared to its readers that “Old Portland is dead.” Longtime residents understand what that statement means: that the city’s weirdness, which Portlanders hold so dear, has largely disappeared and is being replaced by sleek condominiums and chain stores like Room & Board into a place some say they hardly recognize. Rents have skyrocketed. Traffic is gridlocked. To be sure, this phenomenon is occurring around the country in cities like Seattle and Denver that attract a young demographic. Unlike most other places experiencing growth though, some Portlanders maintain that a singular event catalyzed the change. In that story from August, Willamette Week also conducted a survey about when Old Portland died. Was it the day tourists insisted on taking selfies in front of Salt & Straw, the artisanal ice-cream store, indifferent to the crime tape at a recent shooting nearby? Or was it when a luxury apartment distributed a promotional video of tenants drinking gluten-free alcohol on the rooftop terrace? Turns out, it was neither. After hundreds of voters weighed in, the results came back. Old Portland died on January 21, 2011 — the day Portlandia debuted.
“Always On. Slightly Off.”
The series that many Portlanders thought would only run two or three seasons is now set to end its eighth and final season this Thursday. When Portlandia debuted on IFC in 2011, it immediately became a hit, winning an Emmy later that year and a Peabody the next. The show’s popularity decreased over time, but it put its network on the map. At the time of Portlandia’s debut, IFC was trying to make a name for itself in a comedic space that defied traditional sketch boundaries. It was looking for experimental projects that were, as its tagline says, “Always On. Slightly Off.”
When Jennifer Caserta, the president of IFC, first heard Armisen and Brownstein’s pitch, she wondered whether their idea would transcend beyond Portland and the Pacific Northwest. But after seeing the pilot, she realized it tapped into the cultural Obama-era Zeitgeist, highlighting contrived lifestyles, emerging technology, DIY mentality, and the organic movement, by “poking fun at some of the things people were taking so seriously in their lives.” Brownstein, who resided in Portland in the early 2000s, told the Daily Beast in 2014that the show’s setting was “more about identifying and exploring the minutiae of how and why people live the way they do. Portland just makes a really good backdrop and is a good stand-in for other cities.” Portlandia ended up attracting an audience of highly educated, affluent city-dwellers, mostly residing in the Northeast and along the West Coast. It also became rooted in the popular image of the city along the way.
The show that defined Portland
“No other show on the network was so specifically tagged to a region,” she told me. “I think there’s been probably various discussions when you put a magnifying glass over the city, and sometimes people love that attention, and some people probably not so much.”
Many Portland residents fall into that latter camp. When I visited Portland, my hometown, this past August, I attended a friend’s reading series held at a corner bar in North Portland, the neighborhood where much of Portlandia was filmed. The bar sells old cassette tapes and serves $5 local microbrews on tap. The host, who was in from Brooklyn and had never been to Portland, introduced a local comedian as the final reader. As he drumrolled her to the stage, he announced into the microphone, “And she played a part in a show, maybe you’ve heard of it, called Portlandia!”
What’s Next For The Portland Film Community?
The loss of Portlandia will certainly be felt by the local film community but the good news is that thanks to it’s popularity we can be sure that other shows or movies will be filmed here for years to come.
Portlandia can be watched instantly online via almost any device and we can be certain that the city of Portland will continue to have an a huge appeal to actors, writers, directors and producers in the future who may even be eager to write about the people that continue to keep Portland weird.
What’s your favorite Portlandia episode? Leave us a comment below or link to your favorite one on YouTube!