No one is safe from the gentle mocking of IFC's "Portlandia" when it returns for its third season at 9 p.m. Jan. 4: the people of Portland, Ore., hipsters everywhere, or even TV fans.
In a skit called "Spoilers," co-creators and stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein show their own love of TV as they play dinner party-goers who want to talk about the latest episodes of "Homeland" and "Game of Thrones," but there's always someone at the party trying to avoid spoilers.
It's just another of the many keen and hilarious observations from the duo and their director, Jonathan Krisel, that have made "Portlandia" one of IFC's biggest hits and such a pop culture sweetheart that Salon's David Daley wrote a story titled, "No, really. Stop comparing everything to 'Portlandia.' "
Armisen, who says his years playing drums for the punk band Trenchmouth and hanging out in then-burgeoning Wicker Park informs some of the ideas he comes up with for "Portlandia," promises fans can expect a lot of the same characters they've grown to love.
A farmers' market full of guest stars are slated for the season, including Chloe Sevigny, Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum, Roseanne Barr, Rose Byrne, Jim Gaffigan, Juliette Lewis, Matt Lucas, Martina Navratilova, Patton Oswalt, George Wendt and Armisen's "Saturday Night Live" castmate Bill Hader.
I recently sat down with Armisen at RedEye to talk about the new season and what goes into making "Portlandia," his time on "SNL" and his and Carrie's Portland visitors guide. He also answered some silly questions inspired by the shows and the book, which you can watch in the video above.
What should fans be excited about in Season 3?
A lot of the same characters are coming back that Carrie and I have done. There are story arcs that go throughout the season this time. It’s still sketches but we’ve sort of expanded it a little bit. The episodes are a little more interconnected. That’s ’cause we’re fans of TV and such fans of "Homeland" or "Game of Thrones" and we're like, "How do they do that? How do they draw you in?" So we just tried to include some of that.
You do a skit about MTV no longer playing music that's very fun.
It's a little bit about MTV; it's a little bit about where we go to for information. Not just news but pop cultural information and how that changes. I mean, MTV is obviously pre-Internet. And it's about the things that meant a lot to us when we were growing up. So it's not about nostaglia; it's not about the good ol' days. It's not like, "I wish things were different." It's just like this part of my neighborhood I used to know, what happened to it. It's not a judgment; it's not bad that it changed. It just does and we gravitate to other things.
In the "Spoilers" skit, you spoof those folks who are wary of TV spoilers.
It's funny cuz we were shooting that episode ... It's a sort of dinner party where we arrive ... and we say, "Have you seen the latest "Game of Thrones?" and one person will say, "Don't say anything yet! I haven't seen that episode." ... Also on the set as we're talking we had to be like, "No, but really don't say anything, because I haven't seen that." We were talking about things we could give away, like, "Does Joffrey ever get killed?" ... It was really weird doing that sketch and on top of that having to not say anything.
Although I will say, conversely, I don't care about spoilers. I still enjoy shows if I know what's going to happen. I never care; it's great. I want to see how they do it. ... There might be some spoilers in [the skit].
Are you surprised by how popular the show has become? Or even the individual characters?
Absolutely, because when we write this stuff it’s in a small room, and it’s just the writers—not very many of us—John Krisel our director and Carrie. We just think of things and it’s not like we roll over laughing. We don’t go like, "This is genius." ... We’re like, "I guess that's good." To see it come back to us and for people to tell us it had an effect is really great. That’s the nature of a TV show, but it’s still lucky because you can never predict what’s going to be popular. It was special to us, but there are things that didn’t dawn on me like people identifying with some of the characters.
What initially sparked your interest in doing the show in the first place?
You have no idea at all, you know? When you start something, you kind of don't know why you're doing it. ... You just go, "Man, this is fun." We did these videos online, how Tim and Eric have their own show. "I wonder what that's like? That must be fun." The Mighty Boosh and, you know, Flight of the Conchords. Look at these guys. They get to play music and have this weird show. What's it like? It's just sort of just like a curiosity and it's almost like saying "what if?" You know? Like what if we did this?