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Christopher Guest’s new mockumentary will divide America.

Christopher Guest’s new mockumentary will divide America. (photo)

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I felt bad for ignoring the Golden Globes once I found out the U.S. Census Bureau ran a commercial featuring the all-star likes of Bob Balaban and Ed Begley Jr., the first part of their effort to try and make sure people will fill out those damn forms. The puzzling commercial, it seems, is the opening salvo of a five-commercial campaign directed by Christopher Guest. This does not please me.

In writing this up, The Los Angeles Times‘ Dan Neil raises a number of cogent points. The main problem, as he points out, is that the spot in general does nothing to reach out to those reluctant to fill out the form in the first place: the illegal immigrants, the impoverished, the preternaturally suspicious. Per Jeff Tarakajian – the executive VP of the advertising agency in charge of the campaign — this leg of the census advertising blitz is to reach the 84% of Americans inclined to fill out the forms but who get lazy about it. “You’ve got to start with the base,” he says. Specialized campaigns in 27 languages, a NASCAR sponsorship et al., will follow.

However, I have a whole other problem with the campaign: I don’t think Christopher Guest is funny. Okay, so the Stonehenge bit in “This Is Spinal Tap” is a total winner, but “Best In Show” and “For Your Consideration” are two of the more excruciatingly non-hilarious comedies I’ve ever grinded my teeth through. And I know what you’re going to say: “Dude, you’ve never seen ‘Waiting For Guffman’? What the hell?” And I will someday, I swear — but even if it is, as I’ve been promised, his one true landmark, that wouldn’t change my opinion of his body of work as a whole. Like, I love three Kurosawa movies out of the 16 I’ve seen; that doesn’t mean I really like Kurosawa as a whole.

01222010_foryourconsideration.jpgSo even with Guest’s extended three-minute mockumentary spoof that’s currently on YouTube, I wasn’t chuckling. Nor were many others, given its 2,000 views after 5 days, which is pretty pathetic for a national ad campaign. (They should’ve just had Star Wars Kitteh speak for the Census or something.)

But the ads’ biggest stumbling block is the inherent irony of appealing to the American masses by showing how much Hollywood types are out of touch with Americans in such a way that it’s almost meta. It’s part of the genre of Hollywood spoofery that’s supposed to be inside baseball, but uses such well-established tropes that it’s toothless. Take for the example, the profile of fauxteur Payton Schlewitt (played by Begley Jr.), which throws around knee-slappers like “My favorite films are the films that I made. Probably because each is such an intensely personal statement. Especially the ones that grossed over $100 million.” Even with Guest regulars like Jennifer Coolidge and Michael Hitchcock traipsing around, it’s unlikely to appeal to anyone but angry conservatives whose worldview this seems to fit into nicely.

And don’t worry, they’re on it already: the comments streaming through the Times page largely resemble the sentiments of “AZ Resident,” who posted “Protest illegal aliens in America….do not return your census form, do not answer questions if they come knocking. Every form not turned in negates the form sent in by an illegal alien. I know there’s at least 20 – 25 people in my family who won’t participate.” Now let’s see Guest make a comedy out of that.

[Photos: ad campaign screengrab; “For Your Consideration,” Warner Independent Pictures, 2006.]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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