The Spoils of Babylon’ is the U.S. show, directed and written by Matt Piedmont, established Saturday Night Live writer and partner of Will Ferrell. It’s the unapologetically silly satire of ‘TV Events’ adapted from books such as ‘The Thorn Birds.’ Although if you haven’t watched these then don’t worry (or bother), as The Spoils of Babylon is a show of great satire in its own right; prodding fun at all of the TV and film clichés in the book, from the dying cough, to symbolic and hallucinating love scenes. No rock is left unturned.
Will Ferrell plays Eric Jonrosh, the oafish and self proclaimed ‘Legend’, ‘Novelist’, ‘Yachtsman’, ‘Fabulist’ and ‘Dreamer’, but most importantly ‘Director’ and ‘Writer’ of The Spoils of Babylon. A story of the young orphan Devon Morehouse (Tobey Maguire), who is taken under the wing of a poor-turned-rich oil driller (Tim Robbins), and his daughter Cynthia (Kristen Wiig). Their relationships are as complicated and bizarrely varied as Morehouse’s adoption suggests.
Toby Maguire gives a wonderfully varied performance as everything from a war hero to a jazz age junkie, while maintaining the exuberance the show flaunts. His pairing with an equally strange and diverse Kristen Wiig is a show highlight. And while the two lead characters require them to overplay the part (cue the despairing cries), they do this with such confidence and ease that you actually begin to believe that they are awful actors. Bravo.
Although, as is unlike the TV events it satirises or any comedy of the same type, The Spoils of Babylon looks strikingly stylish. Even if it was intended to be seen as something silly, this falls nothing short of ice cool. All the while adopting the style of the period/genre that they push through, taking clear inspiration from everything from Sin City to Breaking Bad.
While skipping through periods of television and movie history, The Spoils of Babylon bizarrely begins to subtly address topical subjects, supposedly as its TV event counterpart sort-of attempted. This varies from the attitudes toward women, to addiction, even touching on war ethics. And even if these moments really are blink or you’ll miss them, when noticed they provide a nice touch to what can be a bit of a hollow program.
For The Spoils of Babylon think less in the direction of big names or laugh a minute scripts which you may expect with the like of Will Ferrell, but for more discreet gags. And although at times it can fall slightly flat, it cannot be denied that this show is bursting with character, seen heavily through its razor sharp cinematography.
The Spoils of Babylon premieres on Fox UK on January 18 at 9pm