Why the Final Season of 'Portlandia' Won't Be Sentimental

Creators and stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen opened up at TCA about why they decided to end the show after eight seasons and what to expect from the final episodes.
Augusta Quirk/ IFC
IFC's 'Portlandia'

Don't expect the final season of Portlandia to get sentimental.

As the IFC comedy prepares to end, the creators and stars stopped by the Television Critics Association press tour to give the critics who have supported the series for eight years a proper sendoff. Onstage, Portlandia masterminds Fred Armisen and Carrie Browstein assured the room full of reporters that they wouldn't have to worry about getting out their tissues for the final episodes.

"We were careful not to make it seem too much like the last season. We wanted the episodes to be able to be watched in any order because I think that’s how people watch things anyway, even sketches," said Armisen, acknowledging that there were a few things the writers did to tip their hat to the end of the show. "But I remember when we were in the beginning of writing, we were like, ‘Let’s make sure we’re writing sketches that can still last a while that have some shelf life that are still funny in some way, hopefully.’"

For Brownstein, the nature of the sketch series lent itself to not being wrapped up in a bow. "One of the freedoms that comes from making sketches, people aren’t looking for everyone to get pregnant or die or go off into space or something. We were able to avoid sentimentality a little bit," she said, echoing Armisen. "There were a couple of characters that we were interested in a kind of suggestion of finality or closure, but I don’t think that’s what we led with in the writing process."

IFC president Jennifer Caserta first confirmed a year ago that the eighth season of Portlandia would be the comedy's last. As for why the creators decided to end the show now, Armisen noted that he and Brownstein wanted to have some sense of control over how to conclude the series, as opposed to it somehow getting away from them or being canceled. "We wanted to end the show while we all loved doing it and we had good feelings about it. It just seemed like the right time," he said. "And also eight seasons is a lot. It’s a lifetime, it really is. So it was a very organic decision."

As the series comes to an end, Brownstein took a minute to reflect on her experience on the show. "Something we’ve become more aware of as it’s coming to a close is just the joy that imbued the entire process, from the creation of it to the writing of it to getting to film up in Portland with our amazing cast and crew," she said. "We just never took it for granted, and we felt like there was a true elasticity in what we were able to do."

When asked why the pair think the show has resonated with audiences so well over the course of its run, Brownstein pointed to Portlandia's relatability. "People see themselves in these characters. … They are versions of people who we know, and there is an openness and earnestness with which we portray and write these people that I think allows a way in," she explained, adding that the series isn't mendacious or scabrous in any way. "It’s not targeting people or making them the butt of the joke. I feel like the intention is one of conversation and discourse, so I think that’s allowed people to laugh along with the portrayals."

That the show's sketches are two to three minutes in length is something Armisen thinks helped Portlandia catch on in today's fast-paced environment. "As people's lives change and people seem to be more busy and mobile, I think that’s something that has helped the show a lot," he said.

As the pair move on from the long-running series, Brownstein has already lined up her next project with Hulu: She's adapting her memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, as a half-hour Hulu pilot called Search and Destroy. She also hinted that she has another project in the works that involves Portland. "I do have something with Portland that I actually can’t talk about yet. But yes, I have something planned," she teased.