"Portlandia" put its weird, quirky and colorful characters on screen for the first time in January 2011 and, perhaps, the city hasn't been the same since then.
The television show starred Fred Armisen, former "Saturday Night Live" star, and Carrie Brownstein, guitarist with Sleater-Kinney, and aired on IFC for eight seasons and 77 episodes. It was directed by Jonathan Krisel. Big-name actors such as Ed Begley Jr., Steve Buscemi and Jeff Goldblum, as well as real-life celebrities such as Trail Blazers players and former Mayor Sam Adams, made appearances. Kyle MacLachlan played the "Portlandia" mayor on several episodes — patterned after Adams.
Clearly, it was meant to poke fun at our city and some of its … interesting citizens who "put a bird on it," honored Colin the Chicken (in the process of preparing to eat him) and owned and operated the Women and Women First bookstore (filmed in the old In Other Words bookstore).
Yes, Portland became associated with "Portlandia," said Tim Williams, executive director of Oregon Film, and Marcus Hibdon, director of communications and public relations for Travel Portland.
"People knew that 'Portlandia' was a scripted TV show and, therefore, something of a consistent exaggeration on various tropes about Portland and other cities like Portland (Brooklyn, Austin, etc.)," said Williams, whose organization works with TV/filmmakers to bring shows here. "But, they admired the sense of humor that appeared to be pervasive in this city.
"It seeped into the national creative zeitgeist and became a reference and discussion point for people who don't live here, even if they had not seen the series. This had a mostly positive effect outside of Portland as people seemed to really admire a city that didn't take itself too seriously," Williams said. "The general audience saw 'Portlandia' and, therefore Portland, as a fun and funny place to be and live in."
Hibdon said Travel Portland continuously heard comments from visitors, including international visitors, about "Portlandia," although it's hard to quantify the impact of the show.
"It made people curious about the city and the state," he said. "It was amazing exposure, for sure, and definitely had huge potential to inspire people to check out the real Portland for themselves and see how it matched up.
"Portland was gaining prominence as a West Coast destination when the show launched and it remains popular today."
Williams said that "Portlandia" directly led to other productions coming to Portland, including "American Vandal," "Shrill," "Documentary Now!," "Everything Sucks!," "Trinkets" and more.
Hibdon said the show doesn't contribute to a stigma on Portland of being weird and quirky.
"The show itself was based on a version of Portland that was exaggerated to the level of absurdity," he said. "If it didn't make people perceive Portland as weird and quirky, then it certainly amplified the city's reputation as such.
"It was a net win for tourism. I think the show was more popular outside of Portland than in it. For Portlanders, the joke ended relatively early, but it continued to entertain visitors. It's safe to assume people saw the show for what it was — a comedy about people living in Portland."
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