'Portlandia' is a hoot of a satire

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: Terrific new sketch series starring Valley Stream's - not Portland's - Fred Armisen.

WHEN/WHERE: Friday night at 10:30 on IFC

 Based on the Web series "ThunderAnt," "Portlandia" stars "Saturday Night Live's" Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (a founding member of Portland riot grrrl band Sleater-Kinney) as various residents of Oregon's largest city. They include a pair of hostile lesbian owners of a bookstore, Women and Women First; another couple who insist on visiting the organic farm where the chicken they are about to order at a restaurant was born and raised (next week's episode); and two friends commissioned by Portland's mayor (played by Kyle MacLachlan) to write a song celebrating the city, "but not Seattle."

With cameos next week from Steve Buscemi; and Jason Sudeikis, leader of a polygamy cult that's a front for that aforementioned organic chicken farm. Lorne Michaels is executive producer.

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MY SAY By this point you've correctly deduced that "Portlandia" is a satire of the city's subcultures: animal and biker rights activists, feminists, '90s-era hipsters, folkies, transgenders, anarchists, bisexuals, radical vegans, greens and all others who harbor a seething bias against Seattle for being a bigger and somewhat cooler city. (Portlandia, by the way, is the name of large statue in the city, but Seattle has the Space Needle, so there you have it.)

Not for you? Then consider this review an attempt to persuade otherwise. Brownstein and Armisen move so effortlessly between characters, then execute their riffs, tics, styles and voices with such skilled abandon that before long this doesn't seem like satire any longer but a fun house mirror reflection of intensely real people.

BOTTOM LINE Hilarious send-up of Portland, but Corvallis, Salem and Eugene may well see themselves in this rip as well.

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GRADE A

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