IFC's The Spoils of Babylon finished airing last Sunday night, and if you missed it, I encourage you to check it out. Produced by Funny or Die and created by Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele, this was a six-part miniseries of sorts, a spoof on the epic miniseries of the 70's and 80's, with an all-star cast filling out every bit part over the course of each 22-minute episode.
Will Ferrell is "Eric Jonrosh," the author of the non-existent novel the story is based on, and he opens and closes each episode with his recollections about the filming of the series, which he of course directed himself. A story that spans decades, it covers the classic tropes of the genre that are familiar to fans of old miniseries like The Thorn Birds or Rich Man, Poor Man- there's forbidden love, war, corporate feuding, illegitimate children, etc. There's a joke about every two minutes, and while the show could be hit and miss at times, the hits were pretty great, and the series was so well cast that you almost get caught up in the actual story despite the soap opera ridiculousness of it all.
Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig are the stars, the Morehouse children who grow up as adopted siblings but of course fall in love at first sight. Maguire is unexpectedly funny as the pretentious and tortured Devon Morehouse, but Kristen Wiig especially is fantastic as Cynthia, whose lovelorn character actually seems to develop and change over the course of the series. Wiig is always game for silliness but she really nails the overwrought melodramatic scenes so well she could have easily fit into an episode of the genre they're spoofing. I hope she gets Emmy recognition later in the summer. Many actors seemed to want to be a part of this, and the supporting cast is filled out with people like Tim Robbins, Michael Sheen, Val Kilmer, Carey Mulligan, and most surprisingly, an all grown up Haley Joel Osment, who's actually pretty great as the treacherous son of Devon and Cynthia (once you get past the distraction of his having gained about forty pounds since the last time you saw probably saw him onscreen). Robbins is the other standout as the family patriarch- his every intonation and mannerism is hilarious without even trying.
There are jokes in every frame, from the way it's shot, lit, and acted- and you have to pay close attention sometimes to the introductions by Ferrell in the beginning to even get all of them through each particular episode. The whole project is kind of an oddball creation, but the actors are having a great time, and it's so outlandish and bizarrely funny that I hope it catches on and they can maybe do another one some time next year. Definitely worth watching.