Every once in a while a television event creates a cultural Zeitgeist that defines a generation... and until that comes along, we have a bunch of other things to watch, including IFC's brand-new retro mini-epic The Spoils of Babylon. I've seen the first two episodes, and I'm here to help you decide whether it's right for you. So pour a glass of single-malt Scotch from the decanter and settle in for another round of What's On TV, TV.com?!
The Spoils of Babylon... sounds fancy! What it is?
Your parents or your grandparents or—in the case of you readers out there who are really, really old, your grandchildren—grew up during a different era of television. TV was meant to be watched live at the same time as everyone else, and it was peppered with miniseries like The Thornbirds and Falcon Crest. They were sweeping epics that enraptured the country, and The Spoils of Babylon is basically a goofy parody of them, but processed through a bong that was puffed on by the people from Funny or Die. Spanning several decades, it follows a boy who becomes a man through love, war, success, failure, oil, and maybe a few gunshot wounds.
Who's behind it, and who's in front of it?
Since this is a Funny or Die production, you'll see Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's names in the credits as executive producers. But the real creators are Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, two former Saturday Night Live writers who also teamed up for Will Ferrell's Spanish-language comedy Casa de Mi Padre. The cast is so big that it's probably easier to tell you who ISN'T in it. Let's see, Snoop Dogg isn't in it. Neither is Jim Belushi or your third-grade teacher. On second thought, that was a stupid idea and I'll just tell you who IS in it: Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig, Tim Robbins, Val Kilmer, Haley Joel Osment, Jessica Alba, Will Ferrell, Michael Sheen, and the voice of Carey Mulligan, among others.
When doth The Spoils unspool?
The Spoils of Babylon debuts Thursday, January 9 at 10pm on IFC with back-to-back episodes. It's a six-part miniseries, with each episode running 30 minutes. That's three hours total, in case you're too lazy to math.
Who will like The Spoils of Babylon?
It's certainly geared toward Ferrell's hardcore fans, as it features a combo of deadpan and silliness. But it isn't mainstream comedy. Have you ever seen the brilliant U.K. series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace? It's kind of like that.
What's good about Spoils?
The best thing about The Spoils of Babylon is its lack of rules. It's more like a bizarre comedy project than a sitcom. No punchlines, no winks, no setups. But it does have meta jokes, funny wigs, and miniature models instead of wide-tracking shots. And it works. It's like watching a couple of weird people dick around with a camera and an all-star cast. But it's no amateur project. There's a lot of fun detail in the sets, and because the show covers such a vast period of time, the constantly changing setting is a Happy Meal for the eyes. Plus, the parody '70s style is more than just a filter thrown on the lens; there's some sharp directing here that's used for maximum comedic effect. Will Ferrell is Ferrelly as the grizzled author who introduces each chapter, and holy heck Kristen Wiig is amazing. Just watch her eat brunch in Episode 2.
What spoils Spoils?
The Spoils of Babylon won't be a universal crowd-pleaser because it's a little out there. Some might also argue that it's a Saturday Night Live sketch that runs two hours and 55 minutes too long, but I think it's better than anything Saturday Night Live has done in a decade. I will say this, however: I'm not sure it'll be as enjoyable if you ingest it a few episodes at a time and with commercials (I watched ad-free screeners), because there's a rhythm to it that you don't want to interrupt. If you have the willpower to DVR the whole series and sit through it in one sitting, it will play out like it should, as a three-hour hour comedy film. Sorry, IFC's wallet!
So, should I watch it?
Yes! But I recommend this knowing full well that I could be the only person in the room who finds The Spoils of Babylon hilarious. Hopefully you'll like it and we can be friends who mimic Wiig's melodramatic shrieks.
Do you have a trailer I can take a look at?
Here ya go! But you probably won't get much from it. Trust me.
The Spoils of Babylon premieres Thursday, January 9 at 10pm on IFC.
AIRED ON 2/6/2014
Season 1 : Episode 6