The Watchman: ‘Portlandia’ Winds Down, ‘Grace and Frankie’ Ramps Up

Deputy editor Michael Malone’s weekly look at the programming scene
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The eighth, and final, season of Portlandia arrives on IFC Jan. 18. Created by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel, the swan song season of the series represents one more shot at skewering hipster culture in the cool Pacific Northwest city. The highlight of the new season for Graham Wagner, executive producer, is a sketch involving Candace and Toni, the show’s feminist bookshop owners, that involves riding horses out in the country.

“There’s no reason to do this sketch at all, there’s nothing vital about it,” is how Wagner saw the skit. “There’s no rational case why the sketch is good. You ask yourself why this was made.”

Wagner said that sort of mindset — which speaks to the sketch’s appeal — reminded him of how he felt watching The Kids in the Hall decades before.

Rachel Bloom, star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, pops up in a different skit about a woman using Tinder.

“I don’t think she does a musical number,” Wagner recalled. “That might’ve been a mistake.”

Wagner came on board at Portlandia for season four. He says the series has had a pretty robust run. “Eight years for a sketch show is massive,” he said.

The Portlandia crew doesn’t usually do well with premiere-night parties. “We have an aversion to the Hollywood pomp of everything,” Wagner said. “If there are Portlandia events, we often feel weird about it.”

Other guest stars for the final season include John Corbett, Rashida Jones and Terry Crews.

And the fourth season of Grace and Frankie kicks off on Netflix Jan. 19. Howard J. Morris, co-creator and executive producer, said “the stakes are a little higher” for the comedy’s characters this season. “They really have something to fight for this year.”

Jane Fonda plays Grace, and Lily Tomlin plays Frankie. The pair, who bonded after their husbands left them for each other, take on the world in the new season, dealing with a slate of issues that includes a crumbling house and doubtful children. “It’s really Grace and Frankie against the world,” said Morris, “much more than Grace against Frankie.”

Like Portlandia, Grace and Frankie has some interesting guest stars, including Peter Gallagher as Grace’s love interest, and Lisa Kudrow as the lady who does Grace’s nails — and moves in with her. “I think it’s our funniest season yet,” Morris said.

How many more seasons does he envision for Grace and Frankie? “I’d like it to go 70,” Morris said. “I know that’s a bit optimistic.”

Quips aside, Morris sees a good, healthy run for the series. “No one here wants it to end any time soon.”

The eighth, and final, season of Portlandia arrives on IFC Jan. 18. Created by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel, the swan song season of the series represents one more shot at skewering hipster culture in the cool Pacific Northwest city. The highlight of the new season for Graham Wagner, executive producer, is a sketch involving Candace and Toni, the show’s feminist bookshop owners, that involves riding horses out in the country.

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