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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

IFC "Spoils" Viewers

Article first published as IFC "Spoils" Viewers on TheTVKing.

This week, IFC presented the first two parts of their six-part miniseries The Spoils of Babylon. Spoofing the epic miniseries of a few decades past, this program follows the Morehouse family through good times and bad, while they're poor and rich, with heartbreak and drama to spare.

Each half hour installments opens with the "author of the book," Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell, Anchorman 2), introducing his adapted work. Said to be a twenty-two hour masterpiece, now cut down to less than three hours, he worries more about drinking and himself than the story.

This is a good representation of what the whole project is. Parodying other works, it's an overblown, cheesy work which seems unintentionally funny, but that's the point. It seems to take itself too seriously, which viewers will treat in an opposite manner. Each big twist is offset by silly model landscapes and terrible musical themes, all with poor picture quality and lighting.

Tobey Maguire (Spiderman) and Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids) shine in the lead roles as Devon and Cynthia Morehouse. They aren't biological siblings, Devon being adopted as a boy, and Cynthia would like them to be married. Devon resists, even wedding a girl he doesn't seem to actually love, Lady Anne York (a life-sized mannequin voiced by Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby), to avoid his sister's lust.

Is this relationship wrong? Of course it is. But it's this habit of forcing drama where it doesn't need to be, developed between ludicrous, unrealistic characters, that is a hallmark of the genre, played in an exaggerated fashion here.

Most of the jokes land. Lady Anne claims she's not wooden, and patriarch Jonas (Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption) has Devon read a very, very long inscription in a pocket watch, only to discover three characters cut off due to lack of room. These things do take the viewer out of the moment, but in a funny way, and no one is really getting lost in this story anyway.

There are points where it seems the gag runs too long. After all, one could make fun of this genre in a sketch, even parts of the commercials are done to form, and six episodes seems excessive. But it's not as excessive as some of the actual productions, and there are surely many more elements for the writers to hit before it draws to a close. I do look forward to seeing the rest of it.

The Spoils of Babylon airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on IFC.

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