December 01, 2015

The things I miss by not owning a TV.

I just learned that there's a TV comedy called "Portlandia" which is about funny people living in Portland OR. It's not a situation comedy; apparently it's a series of sketches. And they must be doing something right because it's in its seventh season.

I assume it isn't actually being taped here, and they occasionally slip in an iconic image of the city just to place it here. And that got me thinking.

What would I consider to be the iconic image of this city? And the answer was easy: Being at the Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, looking over the city on a clear day, with Mount Hood visible in the distance. Most of the year you can't see it for the clouds, but you can see it during the summer, and it's really a spectacular sight. Photographs don't do it justice.

Number two? Waterfront park, looking north, showing the Hawthorne bridge and the Morrison bridge. There are a lot of bridges across the Willamette, in case you didn't know. It cuts the city in half so there's a hell of a lot of traffic between the two sides. All the bridges north of the Sellwood bridge are drawbridges of various kinds, or else they're really, really high so that ships can fit underneath. The Hawthorne bridge is a steel truss bridge with a lift section in the middle. The Morrison bridge is something called a "bascule bridge".

Number 3? I suppose it would be a scenic street scene in Old Town, but I never went there in the old days, and I never go anywhere these days.

I guess the problem is, Portland is a very nice city, but it isn't really a distinctive city. No particularly noteworthy buildings or landmarks that are known outside the area.

I wonder what kind of establishing shots they do use. I also wonder what it is about people in Portland that made it possible for others to laugh at us for seven seasons.

UPDATE: I'm trying to think of any city I consider to be inherently funny. All I can come up with is Brooklyn.

UPDATE: Actually, Berkeley is inherently funny, too.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 08:01 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 Minneapolis has the same problem.  No significant skyscrapers... the most-famous one is the Foshay Tower, which is barely tall enough to be part of the skyline anymore.  The gov't buildings next door in Saint Paul... look like government buildings.  Our bridges are boring (when they aren't falling into the Mississippi; then they're temporarily very exciting).

#1 is the Mall of America, but does it count if it's actually in a second-ring suburb?  Maybe a skyline shot across Lake Calhoun.  #1 would have been our professional sports balloon, but the Metrodome is gone.

I suppose #2 is... the "Spoonbridge and Cherry" in the Sculpture Garden?  I'll give #3 to the Mary Tyler Moore statue (doing the hat throw) for those old enough to remember the TV show.

Posted by: Mikeski at December 02, 2015 12:53 AM (hAtXl)

2 I saw a YouTube video on Vancouver, which is now a major filming destination. One of the creator's main points was that as long as you avoid filming the mountains in the background, it's a very nondescript city. There's lots of neighborhoods that look like any other city you wish, and their skyline is also very generic for wider shots.

Posted by: Boviate at December 02, 2015 08:37 AM (XRvFv)

3 Both Portlandia and Grimm apparently do a lot of exterior shoots in  Portland, as well as some other series that use it as a Generic City (for instance, The Librarians). There are several fan sites that track the locations used, and a state film office. Oregon apparently has a juicy incentive plan (up to 20% of goods and services, and 16.2% of local wages, and they make sure to mention "no sales tax").


Posted by: J Greely at December 02, 2015 03:26 PM (dGpmn)

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