The Spoils of Babylon, Fox, TV review: 'Why isn’t it as funny as it should be?'
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Sunday 26 January 2014
Everyone’s a star in Fox’s new comedy The Spoils of Babylon (Sun), and in a much more literal sense.
The cast list includes Will Ferrell, Tobey Maguire, Tim Robbins, Kristen Wiig, Carey Mulligan and Val Kilmer and the script was written by former Saturday Night Live stalwart Matt Piedmont – so why isn’t it as funny as it should be?
Well, for a start, it spoofs a TV genre that’s unfamiliar to most British viewers: the epic mini-series, which was big on American television in the 1970s and 80s, apparently. Think Dallas and you’re close. These shows were often adapted from bestselling novels, which explains why the “Auteur-storyteller-novelist” Eric Jonrush (Will Ferrell in heavy prosthetics) introduces each episode with rambling, self-aggrandising anecdote: “Every member of the cast you’ll see tonight, I’ve slept with,” he informed us this week.
The main story revolves around a family of oil-rich Texans, consisting of patriarch Jonas Morehouse (Robbins), his highly strung daughter, Cynthia (Wiig), and adopted son, Devon Morehouse (Maguire) – but this episode, the second of three, introduced a new addition to the clan.
Having acquitted himself honourably in a Japanese PoW camp (“Any of you fish-eaters have a light?”), Devon returned to the family ranch with a bride in tow. Lady Anne York (Mulligan) was British, classy and sensual. She also happened to be a shop mannequin. Inanimate or not, Lady Anne won’t stand idly by as her new husband rekindles his semi-incestuous love affair with his adopted sister. Cue a very bizarre sex scene indeed.
The Spoils of Babylon is low on laughs, but if you’re in the mood, it could still be appreciated as a lovingly executed oddity.
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