'Portlandia,' 'Whisker Wars' to return, execs say at upfront

IFC unveiled two new scripted comedies — animated skein “Out There” and “Maron” — plus another installment of R. Kelly’s “hip hopera” “Trapped in the Closet” and original laffers “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and “Bunk.”

At IFC’s first-ever upfront presentation in Gotham Tuesday.

The network announced it’s bringing Fred Armisen’s sketch comedy series “Portlandia” back for a third season and “Whisker Wars” for a second.

It’s all about comedy now as IFC targets an audience it dubs “responsible rebels.” They’re not hipsters exactly, execs said. They have good jobs and disposable income, although they like unpredictability. IFC prexy Evan Shapiro said the network studied this group and found smart comedy is what they want most. “Like ‘Arrested Development,’ something it’s hard to find any more,” he said. (The show was canceled by Fox in 2006 but will be resurrected by Netflix next year.) IFC targets a narrower demo than Comedy Central but one it hopes will be highly valuable to advertisers. Comedy can cost less to produce, which was also a consideration, Shapiro said.

IFC needs to show advertisers that success like “Portlandia” wasn’t a one- shot deal, although the event at New World Stages – the off-Broadway home of “Avenue Q” — was called Upfrontlandia.

“It’s a network upfront named after the one show you’ve ever hear of from them,” joked Scott Aukerman of “Comedy Bang! Bang!” who hosted with Reggie Watts.

“Bunk” host Kurt Braunohler asked a panel of comedians how they’d alter three wild animals in a bit called Improve That Animal.

“Bang! Bang!,” based Aukerman’s popular podcast, is a riff on latenight talkshows with him, Watts and guests Elizabeth Banks, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Adam Scott and Weird Al Yankovic.

In “Bunk,” comedians compete in inane challenges to win surreal prizes.

The shows will premiere Friday, June 8 in back-to-back half hours.

The past year was IFC’s first as an ad-supported network. General Manager Jennifer Caserta said advertisers seem to be onboard, and IFC has added 50 new clients, breaking into the quick service restaurant, casual dining, snack food and beverage categories.

“Out there is a small-town-set coming-of-age adventure that follows Chad, his little brother Jay and best friend Chris. “Maron” is a fictionalized take on comedian Marc Maron’s life and career.

The first episodes of “Trapped in the Closet” – part urban operetta, part musicvideo — debuted on IFC and IFC.com in 2007, delivering the net’s most robust online audience ever. Part two comes in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The second season of Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s “Portlandia,” which ended March 9, was IFC’s most-watched series ever with 13.5 million total viewers – more than double year one. The new season will feature Kyle MacLachlan’s recurring character as Portland’s misguided mayor plus Jeff Goldblum, Penny Marshall, Tim Robbins, Andy Samberg, Eddie Vedder and Kristin Wiig. IFC is also planning a one-hour summer, “Portlandia: The Brunch Special,” and a half-hour holiday special.

Shot on location in Portland, Ore., the series is directed, co-created and co-written by “Saturday Night Live’s” Jonathan Krisel and exec produced by Lorne Michaels.

Docu-comedy “Whisker Wars” looks at the world of international competitive beard growing.

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