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'Portlandia' boosters wryly seek Emmy nomination

The IFC sketch comedy show's try for recognition has a David-versus-Goliath feel amid other big-budget campaigns.

June 20, 2012|By Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times
  • Guest star Jeff Goldblum, right, with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein on an episode of "Portlandia."
Guest star Jeff Goldblum, right, with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein… (Danielle Mathias, IFC )

The heavy-duty Emmy "for your consideration" onslaught is in full, garish swing.

Network and cable outlets are pulling out all the stops, weighing down the mailboxes of the voting members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with lavish DVD mailers. They're filling the landscape with billboards, bus wraps, newspaper ads and oversized posters touting the award-worthiness of shows such as NBC's "Smash," AMC's "Breaking Bad" and Showtime's"Homeland."

Even a long shot such as Whitney Cummings is prominently promoted, despite the fact that NBC's"Whitney" is not a hit with critics or audiences.

Then there's "Portlandia,"the IFC sketch comedy series that affectionately skewers Portland, Ore., and its quirky residents.

Lacking the resources to fuel a massive Emmy campaign, the show's producers and boosters are still determined to make themselves heard. Even though the series makes fun of his city, Mayor Sam Adams has offered to help out, pledging to call every TV academy member at home.

Adams is kidding, of course — he's got a few other things to deal with besides putting academy members on speed dial. But he and other Portland boosters are hitting the Emmy campaign trail with "Portlandia" producers to secure a marquee nomination for the series — a nod for outstanding variety series, perhaps, or for directing, writing, supporting actor or actress.

"We wanted to do something grass-roots that will reflect on the fun nature of the show," said Blake Callaway, the network's head of marketing. ""We hope it sets us apart from the pack."

A video on IFC's website features Adams asking Emmy voters to "put an Emmy on it," a twist on one sketch that suggested you can put a bird on anything in Portland and call it art. A CD-sized mailer sent to academy members from the city's official travel bureau, Travel Portland, includes a pop-up map that spotlights some of the city's colorful locations, including the In Other Words feminist book store, the craft mecca Crafty Wonderland and Voodoo Doughnut, home of the Maple Bacon Bar (a maple bar topped with bacon strips).

"Don't forget to pack your pickles, custom knots, bike helmets, birds and Emmy," the invite reminds voters.

"Portlandia" producers, including executive producer Lorne Michaels ("Saturday Night Live"), realize they are engaged in a David- versus-Goliath pursuit. Broadcasters and studios are spending millions of dollars in their Emmy campaigns before the June 28 nomination deadline

Michaels maintained that the series might be seen as an underdog that might squeeze in among the more established competitors.

"The show is a critic's darling, so we think we have a viable chance," Michaels said in an interview. "In the IFC universe, it's a'Modern Family.'It's watched by the industry and smart audiences. At the end of the day, the academy tries really hard to reward originality and quality."

"Portlandia," which has completed its second season, stars "Saturday Night Live" regular Fred Armisen and musician Carrie Brownstein, who play numerous characters in the half-hour sketch show. The series positions Portland as a place where "young people go to retire" and is structured as a comic mash-up satirizing the city's artisan shops, community gardens and offbeat residents.

Brownstein said the prospect of getting an Emmy nomination is "surreal."

"It's a privilege to even allow yourself the fantasy of getting an Emmy nomination," she said. "We feel like outsiders, and we forget there's these external litmus tests. I'm just honored we're considered part of the conversation. It's like sitting at the kids' table and being invited to eat with the adults."

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