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THE TV COLUMN

Star-packed Spoils of Babylon debuts on IFC

By Michael Storey

This article was published January 9, 2014 at 2:57 a.m.

kristen-wiig-and-tobey-maguire-star-in-the-ifc-spoof-the-spoils-of-babylon-the-series-debuts-at-9-pm-today

Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire star in the IFC spoof The Spoils of Babylon. The series debuts at 9 p.m. today.

And now for something completely different .…

Viewers with cable access to IFC are in for a treat today. The Spoils of Babylon debuts at 9 p.m.

If the title reminds viewers of a cheesy miniseries with love, lust, greed and war igniting the TV screen, then they got it right.

The Spoils of Babylon, however, is a spoof - a romping parody of the epic, multi-generational, scenery chewing miniseries of the 1970s and ’80s.

Kids, ask your grandparents about Rich Man, Poor Man and The Thorn Birds. Those were the glory days when a 10- or 12-episode miniseries was a genuine event. The finale of 1976’s Rich Man, Poor Man, for example, was seen by 130 million viewers - 71 percent of the audience.

It may be tongue in cheek, but The Spoils of Babylon has some pretty heavy hitters for a cable show.

The series stars Jessica Alba, Will Ferrell, Jellybean Howie, Val Kilmer, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Haley Joel Osment, Tim Robbins, Michael Sheen, David Spade, Steve Tom and Kristen Wiig.

From Ferrell’s and Adam McKay’s Funny or Die production company (best known for the website of the same name), the “epic TV miniseries” was written by Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele. It opens with two back to-back half hour episodes.

IFC got in the epic spirit with its news release.

“The Spoils of Babylon is a momentous and sweeping tale of forbidden love, betrayal, corruption and bloodshed. The gripping six-part saga world premiere marks the most celebrated achievement in television history.

“Legendary author Eric Jonrosh [Ferrell], the undisputed master of fiction, personally opens and closes each episode, introducing audiences to the storytelling genius behind the brilliant adaptation of his best-selling novel, a sweeping chronicle of the provocative and captivating exploits of the Morehouse family.”

Jonrosh’s resume includes 57 best-sellers in 85 different languages. Some of his other titles include The Spoils of Galaxy 7, The Spoils of Grasping for God, The Spoils of the Sahara, The Spoils of the Singing Night Squirrel, The Spoils of the Weeping Falcon and The Spoils Beneath the Sea.

“I’m thrilled my masterwork is finally making it to the screen, albeit the small screen,” Jonrosh says. “Although I guess these days people have pretty big screens in their homes but still not as big as ‘the big screen.’

“I mean, some people who have home theaters might have screens that big, but most wouldn’t, at least that’s what I would imagine. Still, I’m thrilled, and I personally do have a giant screen TV.”

Robbins portrays patriarch Jonas Morehouse who leads his daughter Cynthia (Wiig) and adopted son Devon (Maguire) from humble beginnings in the Texas oil fields to powerful boardrooms in New York.

“Cynthia and Devon, entwined in undeniable love, stumble through war-torn battlefields, blazing mansions, filthy drug dens and velvet-sheeted bedrooms on their quest for power and influence.”

Despite Jonas’ best efforts to intervene, Cynthia and Devon’s taboo relationship sets into motion a wave of destruction that crashes down on Devon’s graceful wife, Lady Anne (Mulligan), his daughter Marianne (Howie), his colleague and lover Dixie (Alba), Cynthia’s hen-pecked husband Chet (Sheen), her evil son Winston (Osment), the scheming Army generals (Kilmer and Tom) and beyond.

It’s a hoot. If you get IFC, be sure to check it out.

Helix. The highly anticipated Syfy original series makes its debut at 9 p.m. Friday. It’s also a double-episode premiere.

Rated TV-PG for language (there also is icky blood), the original series comes from executive producer Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica). It’s a thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who travel to an Arctic research facility to investigate a possible outbreak.

Once there, they find themselves enmeshed “in a life-and-death struggle that could spell mankind’s salvation … or annihilation.”

Heading the ensemble is veteran Billy Campbell (The Killing, Once and Again, The 4400) as Dr. Alan Farragut, head of CDC’s Special Pathogens Branch. He shares a complicated past with his researcher brother, Peter (Neil Napier), and his scientist ex-wife, Dr. Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky).

Others on the rapid response team or stationed at the facility include Jordan Hayes as Dr. Sarah Jordan, Hirouyuki Sanada as Dr. Hiroshi Hatake, Catherine Lemieux as Dr. Doreen Boyle, and Mark Ghanime as Army liaison Maj. Sergio Balleseros.

Campbell sums things up: “Helix is a story of a viral outbreak and the team from the CDC who are sent to deal with it. It doesn’t just kill - it changes people into something that’s not human. No one has seen anything like this.”

The Syfy tagline: “Play God and pay the price.”

I found the two-episode first night somewhat ponderous, but will give it a third episode to get rolling and convince me to come back.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email: mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 30 on 01/09/2014

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