It's hard to remember a time when Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen weren't making us laugh uncomfortably at their outrageous, satirical takes on privileged liberals of the Pacific Northwest, but it's a reality we'll all soon have to face. Portlandia isn't returning for another season, as was first reported by Variety in early 2017, and the sketch geniuses behind the show are OK with that.
The announcement came in the midst of the show's seventh season — it's now in its eighth and final — and didn't seem to be due to lack of viewership. According to its stars and creators, it was just time to tie this one up in a bow and move onto the next project. “In some ways, [we're] just trying to create a container for something that has edges, in terms of intentions," Brownstein said in 2017, according to the same Variety piece. "I think in terms of the creation of art, it’s nice to put parameters around it. I think it helps to keep it pointed.” Brownstein also said at a TCA panel earlier this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter, that the nature of the show lends itself to an organic ending, without being too sentimental or forcing uncharacteristically poignant goodbyes.
"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," Brownstein said. "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." Armisen added that he didn't want the final season to feel like a dramatic bookend that didn't fit with the vibe of the rest of the show — he wanted it to be watchable as a typical installment, not something that necessarily had to come at the end of Portlandia's run.
"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," Armisen said at the same panel, THR reports. "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.’"
Portlandia has given TV some of its most outlandish characters, but it never lost its humanity, which definitely makes it an easy re-watch, and gives it legs to stand on even after its final episode airs. The show's satire found ways to hit home and make a point without ever feeling mean-spirited or like it was taking itself too seriously. It was thought-provoking while still being downright silly, and no matter how ridiculous Armisen and Brownstein's personas became, viewers were endeared to them.
They also weren't afraid to tweak some of its more heavy handed sketches to reflect the changing culture as Portlandia went on — Brownstein told The Cut in January that the show recently wanted to go in a different direction with its iconic "feminist bookstore owners" because they had essentially run their courses in their first imaginations. "We felt like that the vernacular of outrage had actually sort of caught up with Toni and Candace, who at one point really seemed like an outsized and outdated version of feminism — barely second wave," Bernstein told the outlet. "It was nice to be able to take Toni and Candace and say, 'Well, it’s not that interesting anymore to have two angry women.' We’re all angry at this point."
It was refreshing for Portlandia to adapt this way — so much satire and sketch comedy will beat a joke into the ground without taking into account the broader context, and it can become tiresome very quickly. But that never felt like a danger here. The show acknowledged some of society's major flaws, but offered a way to use them for genuinely interesting, entertaining material, rather than for a harsh indictment. "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," Brownstein said according to the same Hollywood Reporter piece linked above. "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." So, as Portlandia comes to a close and all its wacky inhabitants take their final bows, viewers can send the show into the sunset the same way they welcomed it — with laughter.