Bike groups say no to Portlandia appearance

'Portlandia' bike sketch request falls flat with some riders

Bicycle riders (Portland Tribune, file)
Bicycle riders (Portland Tribune, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Straight outta “Portlandia”: Producers for the IFC show wanted Portland bicycle groups to rally as background for a scene showing riders protesting drivers who endanger bicyclists. They sent word to groups asking members to be part of the background crowd, and to bring banners and signs.

Carrie Brownstein, left, and Fred Armisen pose at a screening of the second season of IFC's "Portlandia," Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The comedy series, written by Armisen and Brownstein, returns for a second season, Friday, Jan. 6, at 10 p.m. EST on IFC. (AP Photo/Starpix,  Kristina Bumphrey)
Carrie Brownstein, left, and Fred Armisen pose at a screening of the second season of IFC’s “Portlandia,” Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, at the Museum of Natural History in New York.(AP Photo/Starpix, Kristina Bumphrey)

It backfired. Some groups balked at the proposal, worried that the TV show known for poking fun at Portland/Northwest stereotypes would, well, poke fun at serious bike riders.

At least one group — Shift to Bikes — voted by a wide margin against being part of the show. One big issue for the Shift group was the lack of information about the bike rally sketch. A non-disclosure agreement is required before anyone can see a script, according to “Portlandia” Art Department Coordinator Peter Falanga.

Last week, Falanga contacted bike groups across the city, asking members to show up on Friday, Sept. 16, to film a sketch about riders protesting reckless drivers. The show’s producers wanted to know by Sept. 9 how many bike riders would participate in the sketch. The request set off a chain of emails that, for the most part, rejected “Portlandia’s” request.

Falanga wasn’t surprised by the response. The non-disclosure agreement became an issue with some, he said. “They didn’t want to do that.”

The bike riders and their banners would be used primarily as “set dressing” for the sketch, Falanga said. “It would be a good plug for their group.”

‘Grit my teeth’

Shift to Bikes is a loose-knit group of riders formed 14 years ago to promote bicycling. It sponsors dozens of theme rides each month, such as the Full Moon Naked Bike Ride, Tabor Tuesdays, Women Bike Coffee Club Ride Downtown and the Women and Trans Wrench Night.

It’s one of several bicycle groups in the city that represent serious riders, recreational riders and long-distance riders.

Tom McTighe wrote on a Shift email chain that he voted against being part of the show because he was convinced it wouldn’t provide a realistic look at how riders deal with drivers every day.

“I am a 98 percent lighthearted, fun-loving guy, but this show makes me grit my teeth,” McTighe wrote. “I’ve never seen an episode where all persons portrayed weren’t being sneered at, or where it looked like the script was given more than 12 minutes thought. I’ve never seen them cutting on bullies — always easy shots at groups that are already marginalized and sneered at by the mainstream.”

Shift rider Carlton Ward agreed with McTighe. “This show will make PDX bicyclists look like incompetent fools. It will be quirky with a bit of charm, but the intent will be to have a laugh at our expense.”

Chris McCraw, Shift’s listserv coordinator who said he doesn’t watch “Portlandia,” set up a poll and, in just a couple hours 40 members of the group voted 31-9 against being part of the “Portlandia” sketch. That’s a pretty good response from the group in one afternoon, McCraw said.

Falanga said he wasn’t surprised by the group’s refusal. The show was able to find other bike groups to participate, he said.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.

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