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Originally published Monday, January 5, 2015 at 6:15 AM

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‘Portlandia’ tries a new approach for Season 5

An on-set interview with Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, stars of IFC’s “Portlandia,” which returns for Season 5 on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015.


Special to The Seattle Times

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‘Portlandia’

Season 5 gets under way at 10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8, on IFC.

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One of the very best shows on television. MORE
Portlandia is among the best TV being made these days. Glad to hear it sounds like it will continue past Season 5. MORE
I love Portlandia. It's witty and so well written and so very different from things blowing up or someone being shot... MORE

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PORTLAND, Ore. — As the smell of baked goods wafts out of a nearby Voodoo Doughnut shop in mid-October, the cast and crew of IFC’s “Portlandia” film scenes at Portland’s Columbia Art Supply store. One brief vignette calls for guest star Shepard Fairey to smash a TV set, which is filmed outside the store on a street corner.

If the cameras had just turned around to point back at the crew, they would capture a scene as unexpected as those in the sketch comedy series. Just 10 days before Sleater-Kinney announced its first new album in 10 years and plans for a 2015 tour, there was already a mini-reunion happening on the set of “Portlandia.”

Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss stood in the middle of a small street holding a traffic sign encouraging motorists to drive slowly.

“I do have a connection,” said Weiss, who has served as the show’s permitting manager, casting the series’ locations since Season 3. “I introduced Fred and Carrie.”

Carrie is, of course, Carrie Brownstein, “Portlandia” star and Sleater-Kinney guitarist/vocalist. Fred is “Portlandia” star Fred Armisen. The pair return for the 10-episode fifth season that finds the show more focused on telling a single story per episode.

“In ‘Getting Away,’ the season finale last year, we liked how we had one inciting incident and then all the story lines revolved around that, so we actually wrote all the episodes like that except two,” Brownstein said during a break in filming. “They’re all done with themes with all the characters spinning off that. It definitely made filming different. We were filming in little chunks. There weren’t a lot of full sketches being hammered out all at once.”

The premiere episode takes viewers back in time to see how feminist bookstore owners Toni (Brownstein) and Candace (Armisen) met. Future episodes feature Lance (Brownstein) and Nina (Armisen) in couples therapy and Bryce (Armisen) and Lisa (Brownstein) dealing with the vandalism of their taxidermy shop.

Returning guest stars include Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Olivia Wilde and Steve Buscemi. New guest stars are “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Natasha Lyonne (“Orange is the New Black”), Justin Long (“Ed”), Paul Reubens (“Pee-wee’s Playhouse”) and Oscar the Grouch (“Sesame Street”).

Artist Fairey guest stars in the scene shot at Columbia Art Supply as an assistant to Phil (Armisen) and Gigi (Brownstein), who make a commercial to attract art students to their store where they sell pre-made art.

In one scene, the trio tosses around parts of baby dolls while pitching the store’s radical art products, including smashed and un-smashed TV sets, available in bulk of course. In another scene, they hawk telephone poles.

“Why go all the way out to look at telephone poles when you can get it right here,” Phil says.

“We don’t want art to be inconvenient,” Gigi adds. “So we’ve brought all the authenticity and put it right here in our store.”

Although this fifth season of the show is the last one IFC has officially ordered, both Brownstein and Armisen seem eager to return for more, despite busy careers aside from “Portlandia” (Armisen on “Late Night with Seth Meyers”; Brownstein with her role in Amazon’s “Transparent,” promoting a book that’s due out next fall and touring with Sleater-Kinney).

“I think we are doing more,” she said.

“We love it because the time period is very finite,” Armisen added. “It’s been happening for five years now. We get together around now and it’s just part of our lives.”

Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.



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