IFC’s ‘Portlandia’ hits and misses

chris hornbecker/ifc
Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen star in the IFC comedy series.

When it comes to branding, IFC has found the perfect embodiment of its slogan “Always On. Slightly Off.’’ in the quirky comedy series “Portlandia,’’ which kicks off its second season tonight at 10. .

The brainchild of “Saturday Night Live’’ regular Fred Armisen and Wild Flag rocker Carrie Brownstein, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, the show is a gently skewering love letter to likable misfits in general and the denizens of the cloudy Pacific Northwest city specifically.

“Portlandia’’ can be howlingly funny when it hits its targets head-on and adds an element of surprise.


Anyone who has ever become so hopelessly addicted to consuming an entire TV series on DVD that they’ve neglected their real lives will giggle with recognition at the second episode’s running sketch about friends spectacularly undone by the “Battlestar Galactica’’ remake, brimming with fun cameos too good to spoil.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

A quick bit about a milquetoast couple envisioning their new fire pit as the future site of wild Bacchanalian escapades benefits from the pair’s strongest suit, juxtaposing the “normal’’ with the absurd - and keeping it quick.

Elsewhere, vignettes about a deal-breaking Eddie Vedder tattoo - which manages to poke good-natured fun at both the vagaries of romance and the persistence of grunge - an allergy pride parade, and an “artisan knot’’ shop wring healthy chuckles.

Game guest stars, like knot shop owner Jeff Goldblum, add to the merriment. Andy Samberg of “SNL’’ shows up as a mixologist, and Jack McBrayer of “30 Rock’’ plays a grocery store customer held up for quiet but devastating ridicule when he forgets his reusable bag.

But, just as the skits on Armisen’s job at “SNL’’ can seem flat and interminable, when “Portlandia’’ misses the results can feel droopy (see: the return of the dour, clueless feminists of the Women and Women First bookstore).


The ratio of hit-to-miss is much better in season two, however, as musician-comedians Armisen and Brownstein have more clearly found their groove.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at