You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Onion News Network, Portlandia

Talk about a tale of two half-hours.

Brooke Alvarez - Suzanne Sena
Tucker Hope - Todd Alan Crain
Jane Carmichael - Esther David

Talk about a tale of two half-hours. IFC introduces “Onion News Network” — a delightfully deadpan parody of cable news, capitalizing on the Web-based franchise — and immediately follows that with “Portlandia,” a vanity project from “Saturday Night Live’s” Fred Armisen that plays like an awful night at the Groundlings, or worse, a collection of the most uninspired sketches from “SNL’s” final half-hour. Actually, juxtaposing the two offers a stark lesson, albeit unwittingly, in the not-so-fine line between intelligent satire and smug, irritating self-indulgence.

As with “Onion SportsDome,” which launched recently on Comedy Central, “ONN” is a take-no-prisoners look at the absurdities of news coverage. Not everything works equally, but the best bits range from painfully clever (a white girl being tried as an African-American man) to surreally wacky (witness the headline “Suri Cruise Targeted by Yet Another Assassin From Future”).

Anchored by Brooke Alvarez (actually Suzanne Sena, who seems to be channeling Fox News’ Megyn Kelly), the half-hour shrewdly zeroes in on news quirks, like the obsession with idiots who put themselves in jeopardy; or anchors hyperventilating over the risk posed by bad weather (in this case, really just light snow flurries).

Admittedly, “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” already have this terrain pretty well covered, but given how rare good satire is, there’s always room for more.

By contrast, “Portlandia” is further proof not everyone deserves a sketch comedy showcase — especially when the premise cuts no deeper than vignettes inspired by the wheat-germy, hippie-ish environs of Portland, Ore.

Lorne Michaels is credited as exec producer, but Armisen and his co-creators Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel seem to have been allowed to roam the Northwest free (the show was shot in and around Portland, clearly on a shoestring budget), with little parental supervision.

Unfortunately, they’re too enamored with what amounts to an array of tiresome characters — feminist bookstore owners, an angry bike messenger, bird lovers, a couple who become irate when someone leaves an unattended dog leashed outside a cafe. And even celebrity cameos (a la Kyle MacLachlan, who appears as the mayor) can’t help them.

“If the Titanic was sinking right there would you just ignore it?” the couple indignantly asks a restaurant patron regarding the dog.

In that respect, watching “Onion News Network” descend into the abyss of “Portlandia” did provide motivation to get involved — if only by lunging for the remote.

Onion News Network, Portlandia

IFC, Fri. Jan. 21, 10 p.m. Series; IFC, Fri. Jan. 21, 10/10:30 p.m.

Production: Produced by the Onion Prods. Executive producers, Will Graham, Julie Smith, Jim Biederman; co-executive producers, Carol Kolb, J.J. Adler; supervising producer, Marla Ratner; directors, Graham, Adler; head writer, Kolb; senior writer, Daniel Mirk. 30 MIN. Produced by Broadway Video. Executive producer, Lorne Michaels; co-executive producers, Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel, Andrew Singer; producers, Melissa Wylie, David Cress; director, Krisel; writers, Armisen, Brownstein, Krisel, Allison Silverman; music, Armisen, Brownstein. 30 MIN.

Cast: Brooke Alvarez - Suzanne Sena
Tucker Hope - Todd Alan Crain
Jane Carmichael - Esther DavidFeaturing: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Katie O'Grady, Ian Karmel, Jaime Langton, Mikel Chase, Lily Moser, Jennifer Yocom. With: Kyle MacLachlan.

More TV

  • Pete Davidson photographed by Peggy Sirota

    Pete Davidson Posts Unsettling Message, Deletes Instagram

    UPDATED: “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson posted a disturbing message Saturday morning stating he doesn’t “want to be on this earth anymore,” then deleted his Instagram account. In the post, Davidson wrote, “I’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last. all [...]

  • Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor

    Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor Arrested for Plotting Sex With Minor

    Disney Channel has severed ties with “Andi Mack” actor Stoney Westmoreland following his arrest for allegedly trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old. “Stoney Westmoreland, an actor working on the series ‘Andi Mack,’ was arrested in Salt Lake City today,” a Disney Channel spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “Given the nature of [...]

  • Russian Doll

    TV News Roundup: Natasha Lyonne's 'Russian Doll' Sets Netflix Premiere Date

    On Friday’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for “Russian Doll” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Brexit” film has a premiere date on HBO FIRST LOOKS Showtime has released a new teaser for the upcoming comedy series, “Black Monday,” which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series stars and is executive produced by Don [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

  • FILE - In this April 5,

    CBS Claims Commitment to Ending Harassment. Its Actions Say Otherwise (Column)

    At this point, a new breaking sexual harassment case at CBS isn’t exactly a surprise. Over and over again, powerful CBS company men from producers to executives to the ex-CEO himself have made headlines for propagating decades of harassment and abuse, with dozens of witnesses affirming that the pattern was business as usual. But as [...]

  • Willow ShieldsVariety Portrait Studio, Beautycon Festival

    'Hunger Games' Alum Willow Shields Joins Netflix Drama Series 'Spinning Out'

    Willow Shields has been cast in a series regular role in “Spinning Out,” the upcoming ice skating drama series at Netflix. She joins a cast that also includes Kaya Scodelario, who was announced as the series lead on Thursday, taking over the role originally held by Emma Roberts. Shields will star as Serena, Kat Baker’s (Scodelario) [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content