The Spoils Before Dying, TV review: Ferrell and Wiig leave us waiting for the punchline

The series just isn't silly enough to work as pastiche

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The Independent Culture

Over on Fox, Will Ferrell and Kirsten Wiig are continuing their run of strangely unfunny TV genre spoofs and I still don't get it. The Spoils Before Dying, which began a six-part series last night, is a follow-up to The Spoils of Babylon, and in the same vein as last month's A Deadly Adoption. None of them could raise a wry smile in an enclosed space during a laughing-gas leak.

This is mysterious because, once again, the cast is great. The Wire's Michael Kenneth Williams plays Rock Banyon, a jazz musician who gets embroiled in a murder mystery when his chanteuse friend Fresno Foxglove (former Saturday Night Live cast member Maya Rudolph) is found dead. Kristen Wiig is another singer, Delores DeWinter, and Haley Joel Osment, better known as the kid out of The Sixth Sense, is all grown up now as Alistair St Barnaby-Bixby-Jones, Rock's agent with a dodgy English accent.

In hard-bitten film noir, writers Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele have found a more recognisable – and therefore better – subject for spoofing than the schlocky Seventies mini-series that The Spoils of Babylon took aim at. Here, both the soundtrack and the styling are spot-on and enjoyable in their own right. Yet the series' very slickness is a problem; it just isn't silly enough to work as pastiche.

Still, you have to admire the tenacity of Ferrell et al. They seem determined to continue donning wigs and calling it comedy for as long as audiences will let them get away with it. That's good news for anyone who feels they're in on the in-jokes. The rest of us are left waiting for a punchline that never comes.