MTV, a new roommate played by Chloe Sevigny and winter are all coming to Portlandia. Series creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein led a conference call Tuesday, previewing the show’s third season and winter special, which Brownstein described as “an 11th episode” distinct from the rest of the season. “We never show Portland as the rainy city that it can sometimes be,” she said. “[It’s] having the characters deal with the darkness and kind of dreariness of winter.” But beloved holiday films won’t be comedic targets on the special. “We didn’t really reference any movies,” said Armisen, who added director Jonathan Krisel may have covertly slipped some into the episode without his knowledge.
Season three sees an MTV invasion, a new roommate, lots of Peter and Nance, and guest stars like Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis, Dirty Projectors, Rosanne Barr, Patton Oswalt, Juliette Lewis and tennis great Martina Navratilova. In the premiere episode, characters Spyke and Iris recruit MTV stalwarts Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren and Matt Pinfield (who all just happen to live in Portland) in an uprising against the current incarnation of the network. But this isn’t a shot at MTV. “I was addicted to it . . . it was the main channel that I watched [growing up],” said Armisen. “[It’s] not a judgment call on it at all.” Brownstein shared similar fond sentiments. “MTV was an important part of my childhood,” she said. “I don’t begrudge or have negative feelings towards what MTV is now.”
The characters Fred and Carrie also add a new element to their friendship with Alexandra, the new roommate played by Sevigny. “We wanted to explore the characters of Fred and Carrie, more and [a roommate was] a way of adding tension and showcasing that dynamic,” said Brownstein. And the loving couple Peter and Nance are a heavy presence in season three. “[They’re] comfy and cozy, but we really explore their relationship a lot this year,” said Brownstein. “They’re this unctuous, cloying couple who are very much in love with each other,” added Armisen.
The actors stressed a greater emphasis on long story arcs and character development for the new season. “We spend a lot more time writing and we spend a lot more time [on] endings and making sure there’s a story,” said Brownstein. “We work on having arcs in place and stories within which we can improvise,” she continued, noting the mostly improvised dialogue. “It’s becoming less like a sketch show to me . . . and more about these lives of these people who live in Portland.”
The Winter in Portlandia special airs Friday on IFC at 10:30 p.m. ET. Season three of Portlandia premieres January 4th on IFC at 10:00 p.m. ET.