Catch up on Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's quirky comedy with these highlights

By Melissa Locker
Updated February 27, 2014 05:00 PM
Credit: Augusta Quirk/IFC

Put a bird on your television set, because the new season of Portlandia starts Thursday night.

Created by former Saturday Night Live star and current Late Night with Seth Meyers bandleader Fred Armisen, rock-and-roller Carrie Brownstein and director Jonathan Krisel, the quirky sketch-comedy show returns for a fourth season of fun at 10/9c on IFC.

Set in a world inspired by Portland, Ore., the show is filled with eccentric characters, primarily played by Armisen and Brownstein outfitted in an assortment of wigs and costumes that rivals the collection owned by the Soviet spies on The Americans.

The residents of Portlandia include feminist bookstore owners, entrepreneurs who fill their time pickling everything in sight and artisans making unconventional art projects and starting unlikely entrepreneurial ventures. The show lovingly skewers left-leaning culture and while it is set and filmed in Portland, it reflects trends in Brooklyn, Austin, Asheville and anywhere else with a farmer’s market and an overpriced coffee shop.

Adding to the show’s allure are the A-list actors, comedians and musicians who appear each season. Past guest stars have included Tim Robbins, Aubrey Plaza, Andy Samberg, Patton Oswalt and Eddie Vedder. Stars scheduled to appear this season include Olivia Wilde, Kirsten Dunst, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Goldblum and Jason Sudeikis.

Here are the nine essential sketches you need to watch before the new season starts:

1. "Put A Bird On It!"

This sketch from Season 1 essentially put the show on the map, just by pointing out the design trope that was everywhere.

2. "Did You Read?"

Reading becomes a competitive sport when book lovers and news junkies try to out-read each other.

3. "Catnap"

Kristen Wiig guest stars as an obsessive fan of the band Catnap who is determined to make sure they don’t become mainstream, like her old favorite, Pink.

4. "The Dream of the ’90s"

This song gently – and hilariously – skewers the retro nature of the city the show calls home.

5. "Around the World in 80 Plates"

Comedian Kumail Nanjiani has carved out a niche on the show playing incredibly straight-faced and wildly unhelpful members of the service industry. Whether shilling cell phones, playing a birthday party loan officer or offering to “lobsterize” a meal, Nanjiani’s appearances are always memorable.

6. "Customers Only"

Steve Buscemi just wants to use the restroom at feminist bookstore Women & Women First. Shop owners Toni and Candace have a strict “customers only” policy though, especially for people who look like a pimp.

7. "The Artisanal Knot Store"

Jeff Goldblum plays a quirky shop owner who specializes in selling the latest trend: artisanal knots.

8. "A-O River!"

Two of the many characters that Armisen and Brownstein play on the show are Cath and Dave. The couple are always up for an adventure, as long as they are well-prepared, have all the gear and a set safety word.

9. "The Celery Incident"

The first clip from the new season once again features Buscemi, this time as a celery salesman in a produce version of Glengarry Glen Ross. Based on this sketch, it’s a good bet the new season will be fantastic.

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