See It or Free It: 'The Spoils of Babylon'

“The Spoils of Babylon” is a mini-series spoof aimed at ridiculing the grand spectacles that were the epicallly melodramatic mini-series of the 70’s and 80’s. As a fan of those series, I know that on the other side of their entertainment value, there's a lot of material ripe for parody.

Going in with the background knowledge of the original series, the inside jokes would seem an easy catch and with a cast that includes Kristen Wiig and Tim Robbins, among others, it seemed to be a great comedic opportunity.

The series follows the story of Devon Morehouse (Tobey Maguire) as he records his life story, dying from a gunshot wound. The series then flashes back to tell his backstory, starting from when he was adopted by Jonas Morehouse (Tim Robbins) who raised him alongside Jonas’ biological daughter, Cynthia (Kristen Wiig). The adopted siblings eventually fall in love, a relationship that is forbidden by Morehouse Sr. and drama ensues.

The first, two installments were funny and seized upon the well-known trappings that entailed mini-series, such as "Rich Man, Poor Man" and then…things got ridiculous, insanely so. A plastic mannequin (voiced by Carey Mulligan) that everyone treats as a real person was brought in, which bares no understandable significance to the plot of the source material and bits that are amusing at first; drag on with no rhythm or timing, wearing out their initial welcome.

Tobey Maguire, an actor not known for his work as a purposefully comedic actor, is miscast. His attempts to overact are restrained and he seems to be approaching it as a serious project. Wiig gives her best effort, including her signature dialog trail-off. An established comedian, she is given less to do than Maguire, despite being more than capable of anchoring the series. 

“Babylon” also suffers from being commercially sliced into, resulting in a choppy flow. The “episodes” last for a brief 30 minutes (probably more like 20) and even with that period of time to tell a concise story, it meanders, failing to hold any sustainable quality. Will Ferrell’s opening monologue for each episode, wanders adrift without any gripping material and the character of Eric Jonrosh, an egotistical author is another wasted character opportunity.

The first two episodes, enjoyabley revel in the camp of its story, complete with 70’s style camera work and an over the top musical theme; which offers a clever shot at the rather long runtimes of opening sequences during the era.

The obvious scale models that double as the locations for "aerial shots", always earns a chuckle, as do the poor special effects. Unfortunately, most of the parody doesn’t touch upon its source material for clear inspiration, alienating “insiders”. What started out with tremendous promise has rapidly devolved into a missed opportunity. 

Episodes Aired: 4

See It or Free It: See It Before You Free It, if you are searching for sharp satire; this is not where you’ll find it. However, I really want to give it one more chance to redeem itself.

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