IFC’s Portlandia is As Solid As Ever Now In Its Fourth Season

Courtesy:  IFC

Courtesy: IFC

When it first debuted on IFC almost four years ago in 2011, Portlandia was little more than an unknown sketch comedy show.  Now three years later, it has gone on to quite the unexpected success.  It has garnered itself a nomination for an Emmy award and even a Peabody award win; this despite the show still being largely a cult favorite.  Now with the recent release of the show’s fourth season on DVD, audiences that might still be unfamiliar with Portlandia will be able to see for themselves just what has made this little show that could a fan favorite for four seasons now.  The first and most obvious reason that Portlandia has garnered such a fan following over the course of its run is its writing.  The writing behind this show is the sort of writing that will impress any fan of The Kids in the Hall and The Upright Citizens Brigade.  Also worth noting of this season is the acting on the part of lead stars Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein along with their co-stars and guest stars.  Speaking of the guest stars, the guest stars lined up for Season Four add their own comedic element that audiences will appreciate, rounding out the whole presentation.  All three factors together make the fourth season of IFC’s Portlandia a presentation that audiences new and not so new to the show will enjoy from start to finish.

The central point in the enjoyment of Portlandia Season Four is the show’s writing.  This season’s writing is a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein take no prisoners with co-writer Jonathan Krisel throughout this season.  From social media to organized religion to horror movies, pet adoption agencies and so much more, nothing is off limits this season.  There’s even a spoof of the classic 1993 Robert Redford/Demi Moore drama Indecent Proposal in one episode.  The episode in question features none other than the star of HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire, Steve Buscemi.  The pokes at all things pop culture alone make Season Four well worth the watch.  They’re just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in what makes this season’s writing work.  As with the series’ previous three seasons, each episode is split into multiple segments with one skit serving as the hub of each episode.  That hub is sandwiched by a group of other stand-alone sketches.  This aspect of the writing is likely thanks in large part to SNL head Lorne Michaels also playing a role in this series, too.  And it proves to work quite well surprisingly enough even here.

Directly related to the writing behind Portlandia’s fourth season is the acting on the part of the both Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  The characters that have become so familiar and beloved by fans throughout the show’s first three seasons are back once again.  And the way that Armisen and Brownstein handle their portrayals makes for more than its share of laughs.  Those that might not be so familiar with the duo’s brand of comedy might see the duo’s acting as being aimed at a very specific audience.  The reality is that their acting is meant entirely to poke fun at certain groups of people.  They do so by going completely over the top in their stereotypical presentation of said characters.  It works perfectly with the scripts in general to make each of the sketches even more of a laugh riot.  Armisen and Brownstein’s acting combines with the season’s writing to make each of this season even more entertaining, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the series.

Both the writing and acting that went into the fourth season of Portlandia play their own part in the overall enjoyment of this cult hit series.  Adding even more enjoyment to the overall presentation that is the series’ fourth season is the inclusion of a who’s who of guest stars.  It has already been noted that Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi is on board this season.  Joining him are the likes of Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1,23), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic ParkIndependence DayHoly Man), and singer k.d. Lang among others.  Goldblum actually makes multiple appearances throughout this season’s sketches.  And Dunst opens the season in a hilarious episode that pokes fun at all of the really bad horror movies polluting theaters, store shelves and online retailers.  It is certain to leave any viewer laughing so hard that they cry.  k.d. Lang’s appearance later in the season is just as funny.  She appears in a skit about a group of lesbians on a nature retreat.  The retreat just happens to be led by an older man.  Needless to say that things turn rather interesting for him and Lang’s character.  These are just some of the laughs offered by the guest stars throughout Portlandia’s fourth season.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they pick up this season’s box set.

The guest stars tapped to appear in Portlandia’s fourth season make for plenty of laughs.  The same can be said of the acting both on their part and that of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (as well as their cat mates).  And the writing in general makes a solid cornerstone on which rests the equally solid acting and A-list guest list.  All things considered, Porlandia Season 4 proves in the end to be a collection of episodes that anyone looking for a good laugh will enjoy.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on Portlandia is available online at http://www.facebook.com/portlandia and http://www.ifc.com/portlandia.  More information on this and other releases from IFC is available online at http://www.facebook.com/IFC and http://ifc.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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Moral Messages, Comedy Make Holy Man re-issue worth one watch

Caravan Pictures/Touchstone Pictures/Mill Creek Entertainment

Life is short, people.  Life is short.  We spend so much of our lives focused on materialism, our religious differences, and personal advancement.  We’re so focused on these distractions, that we lose sight of what’s really important.  What’s really important is the people and the world around us.  That’s the message behind the 1998 movie, “Holy Man.”  That message makes “Holy Man” stand out in the comedy genre.  Sadly, it also may be why it didn’t d too well at the box office.  Maybe people simply didn’t get this message, and simply saw it as just another forgettable buddy comedy, thanks to Eddie Murphy and Jeff Goldblum.

It is true that one of the biggest plot holes to this story is that there’s no explanation behind where G came from or where his journey.  But maybe that’s beside the point.  Where one is going in life or where one came from isn’t nearly as important as the impact that one has one those around oneself at each stage of one’s life.  Given his standard character type, Jeff Goldblum was a good choice for the role of Ricky.  Sure, casting Goldblum was typecasting.  But somehow, his chemistry with Eddie Murphy worked.  It could be argued that this was actual a sort of take on A Christmas Carol, if one delved deep enough into the relationship between G and Ricky.  Instead of having three ghosts visit him, Ricky was visited by a single “spirit” who made him realize the path on which his life was moving.  As G and Ricky grow, audiences see Ricky change as a person.  They are reminded without being preached at too much about what’s really important in life. 

Ricky isn’t the only person changed by G.  A number of religious leaders try to claim connection to G at one point in the story.  The absurdity of them trying to claim a link to him is another message that writer Tom Schulman makes.  Each leader thought his religion was G’s.  But did it really matter?  No.  This over emphasis on religion happens every day in real life.  Who is to say which religion is THE right one?  Maybe G is all of them in one.  Again, therein lays the message of our being distracted too much by this difference.

Through G, audiences realize how distracted we are by our materialism, as well as our religious differences.  G never once told anyone to buy anything from the Good Buy Shopping Network.  It was the people themselves who made the choice to buy products.  People suddenly buying stuff from GBSN drives Ricky to care too much about his own personal advancement until he too realized what was really important.  He came to that realization after losing (albeit temporarily) someone close to him.  Once again, the message of removing distractions comes into play.

There is no denying that the story behind “Holy Man” is not the most believable ever written.  But neither can one deny the powerful messages tied in to the story.  They serve as reminders that every once in a while, we need to just take a step back, breathe, and appreciate each other and the world, instead of getting wrapped up in our fast paced, constantly on the go lifestyles.  It may not be the most memorable movie.  But thanks to the messages incorporated into it, “Holy Man” becomes a movie that is worth at least a single watch.

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