January 9, 2014 at 8:32 am #308573
The new IFC spoof miniseries “The Spoils of Babylon” premieres on Thursday, January 9, 2014, starting at 10 PM ET with two consecutive episodes. Starring Kristen Wiig, Tobey Maguire, Will Ferrell, Jessica Alba, Tim Robbins, Haley Joel Osment, Val Kilmer, and Michael Sheen. Future episodes air throughout the month.January 9, 2014 at 8:40 am #308575
Episodes Titles: “The Foundling”; “The War Within”
Synopses: A multigenerational chronicle begins with an entrepreneur hoping to strike it rich on the oil fields, while his adopted son begins an affair with his daughter; later, war erupts and the son enlists to fight in the battle.
Discuss.January 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm #308576
This cast is impressive. Jessica Alba is a pleasant surprise. Didn’t know she was going to be in it.January 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm #308577
TV Review: “The Spoils of Babylon”
January 7, 2014 | 07:00AM PT
Funny or Die’s spoof of vintage miniseries is a tad inside baseball, but still yields some laughs.
Feeling a bit like a “Saturday Night Live” sketch stretched and inflated, “Spoils of Babylon” is still a pretty entertaining spoof, provided that much of the audience (and perhaps especially, the targeted younger crowd) has any idea what it’s spoofing. A product of the Funny or Die factory, this half-hour series is ostensibly a presentation of a lost ’70s miniseries based on a bloated novel, with Will Ferrell buried under Grizzly Adams makeup as the pompous James Lipton-like auteur, setting up each week’s installment. Boasting surprisingly big names, in this case, to the silly goes the “Spoils.”
Ferrell’s Eric Jonrosh didn’t just write the mythical book on which “Spoils of Babylon” is based but, as the overblown credits make clear, wrote, produced, directed, and financed the miniseries (a whopping 22 hours in its original cut, we’re told), in addition to casting his wife in a key role.
The story itself is pure schmaltz, naturally, with Devon (Tobey Maguire) adopted by a kindly farmer (Tim Robbins) and raised with a sister (Kristen Wiig), who keeps reminding him of her unbridled passion and how they are not really blood kin.
Of course, fabulous, “Giant”-type riches courtesy of the Texas oil fields will follow, as well as oodles of melodrama and corporate intrigue. Meanwhile, Steve Lawrence sings the opening theme, and all the outdoor scenes—like cars driving across the countryside—are realized using what are obviously little Hot Wheels-like miniatures.
At six half-hours (two will air back-to-back to launch the show), “Spoils of Babylon” smartly doesn’t overstay its welcome. Still, in the pantheon of vintage TV miniseries, it’s a satire of programs few will likely remember—not the big hits like “The Thorn Birds,” mind you, but the highly disposable (in hindsight, certainly) programmers like “79 Park Avenue” or “Centennial.”
The question is whether the sought-after audience will be able to fully appreciate the gags stripped of that context—particularly if those titles evoke little more than a blank stare.
IFC often seems to be getting by with programming on the cheap, but this effort rather niftily skates past that issue, since looking like a high-school production is ostensibly part of “Spoils of Babylon’s” charm. At the same time, there’s something amusingly ironic about attracting talent like Maguire, Jessica Alba, and Michael Sheen, whose agents otherwise wouldn’t let them be caught dead in these cut-rate environs.
The casting should be a modest draw, though again, the nature of the exercise feels better suited to Web shorts than even half-hour episodes. That said, the show is fitfully funny, and while perhaps unworthy of Jonrosh’s full daylong opus, as ways of idly killing time go, hey, it beats dying.
TV Review: “The Spoils of Babylon”
(Series; IFC, Thurs. Jan. 9, 10 p.m.)
Produced by Funny or Die.
Executive producers, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Matt Piedmont, Andrew Steele, Nate Young; director, Piedmont; writers, Steele, Piedmont; editor, David Trachtenberg. 30 MIN.
Jessica Alba, Will Ferrell, Jellybean Howie, Val Kilmer, Tobey Maguire, Haley Joel Osment, Tim Robbins, Michael Sheen, Steve Tom, Kristen WiigJanuary 10, 2014 at 10:16 am #308578
This was great fun. I’m in.August 22, 2014 at 2:39 am #308579
Ok guys, who out there has actually sat and watched “The Spoils of Babylon?” If you are a Kristin Wiig fan, this is a must see! I semi-regret now watching one episode per week, but w/the Emmys right around the corner, I wasn’t able to do so. It’s currently on Netflix. I absolutely see why Wiig has the nomination, even though I never thought I would see Jessica Lange in the same category as Wiig … or Cicely Tyson, for that matter. I easily found this gem entirely funnier than “Portlandia!” It may have been b/c TSOB was filled with stars I knew, while “Portlandia” only had the main girl, opposide Fred Armison (i’ve only seen one season of Portlandia, so I guess it could have gotten funnier, but slightly doubtful).
– Also, I can understand that Armison/Wiig wanted to separate after SNL and take on their own shows, which they both certainly have done, but for me at least …. when those two are on screen together doing ad lib, they are comedic geniuses 🙂August 22, 2014 at 5:03 am #308580
^ Do you belong to HFPA? You’re such a star-fucker.
Btw it isn’t jab or anything. I’ve noticed that whatever I write to you, you take it as a personal attack.August 22, 2014 at 10:46 am #308581
This was hilarious and Wiig was so good. So was Tobey Maguire. Especially the final episode where they were both Emmy win worthy!August 22, 2014 at 11:07 am #308582
I watched it when it aired… thought it was hilarious. Will probably watch the whole thing again at some point.August 22, 2014 at 12:09 pm #308583
I wish Will Ferrell was nominated over like Colin Hanks. Some of the episodes were a bit dry but every episode I was just dying at the Will Ferrell intro/ourtro piecesSeptember 14, 2014 at 9:40 am #308584
Finally watched the entire miniseries after all this time. Hmmm. Some funny stretches here and there, but for the most part felt like lesser “SNL” sketches stretched out with a bigger budget. As cool of an Emmy nomination as it was, I’m convinced that Kristen Wiig was only nominated on account of both her past name recognition and voters not having seen all of this before voting. All talk of her possibly upsetting for the Emmy win in lead actress in a miniseries/made for television film was so off-base, unlikely, and disingenuous. She was certainly the highlight here in a cast of comedic goofballs. Will Ferrell’s “Eric Jonrosh” introductions became tiresome in every episode (especially with those added “Previously on” segments; his first and last ones would have sufficed), and Tobey Maguire practically ruined this for me like he ruins everything he’s in. The whole time watching him I was thinking, “Bill Hader would have killed it in this role.” But Wiig, Tim Robbins (yassss!), Michael Sheen (just love seeing him do comedic roles), Val Kilmer (who knew he was still alive?), and Haley Joel Osment (he really went for it and nailed the silly villain tone) made the most of this throughout. (Let’s not talk about Jessica Alba any, shall we? The inanimate Lady Anne was better lol). It’s something to see, and the idea of a doing a spoof of classic miniseries/telefilm tropes is a fruitful one. I’d love to see Kristen Wiig do a spoof of those awful women-in-peril films that Lifetime still does to this day, and air it on Lifetime!September 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm #308585
I also watched this recently, as it seemed like something easy to get done before solidifying my fantasy awards. The show was not always funny and peaked before the halfway point with the mannequin, but I did have several laugh attacks, so I am glad that I watched and look forward to The Spoils Before Dying next summer. I loved random little things like Haley Joel Osment sweating profusely for no reason at all in the fifth episode. The Eric Jonrosh segments were too long and it was really weird for the actual episode not to start until three or four minutes in once you also get past the “previously” on recap, especially when the episodes are so short anyway.
As if we needed confirmation, Kristen Wiig got the Emmy nomination solely off of name recognition. That talk about her potentially upsetting is ludicrous in hindsight. Tobey Maguire on the other hand really surprised me. I am used to him being the weak link (The Great Gatsby) or funny for all the wrong reasons (Spider-Man 3). Who knew that he was capable of such impeccable comedic timing? Whereas Wiig played every single scene as broadly as she possibly could have, more or less waving her arms just so that absolutely everyone watching would be aware of how funny (she thought that) she was, Maguire knew exactly when to play up the ridiculousness of the material. More importantly, he also knew when to dial back and play things seriously, as that can actually be the best way to manufacture comedy sometimes. The young actress who played Wiig’s character for most of the premiere was actually better, albeit not at believable as the same person.
On paper, this miniseries seemed star-studded with names like David
Spade and Carey Mulligan not even making the poster, but the show really
spread out its guest stars such that I found myself wondering when Michael Sheen or Jessica Alba would finally show. Then there were others like Val Kilmer who were in the whole thing, but I did not even realize I was watching until toward the end. I ultimately gave The Spoils of Babylon two nominations in my fantasy awards, for comedy lead actor and music. Although the score by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau peaked like the writing in the earlier installments, it was delightfully epic and I am glad that the pair scored a surprise nomination for their fun theme song, which was the only nominee with lyrics this year. The flashy editing is also worth noting. I was tempted to put the show in my best comedy series lineup, but it was inconsistent, which is harder to forgive for something with a combined two-hour runtime.September 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm #308586
I also caught it recently. I must agree that it takes some time for me to get into it but I thought overall, it wasn’t a bad show. I do like how Tobey Maguire played it straight cos it makes it a funnier knowing that this is a parody. Kristen Wiig do have some funny scenes and Haley Joel Osment was kinda good as the villain. Didn’t know there’s a new one coming up. Will probably watch it to see if it can be at the same level or even surpass it.September 16, 2014 at 12:24 am #308587
I just finished it. Inconsistent but funny on the whole and with some really great unique joke ideas. The best performances were Tim Robbins and shockingly Tobey Maguire, who I never liked before outside his one scene in Fear and Loathing.
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