If you desire supremely absurd comedy delivered by a deep cast of talented actors, then binge-watch all six episodes of this epically bizarre miniseries. Satirizing pretentious writing and soap-operatic acting, “The Spoils of Babylon” is an ambitiously absurd gem.
Title: “The Spoils of Babylon”
Year it began: 2014
Where it can be seen: IFC; Netflix; Amazon
Who’s in it: Tobey Maguire; Kristen Wiig; Will Ferrell; Tim Robbins; Jessica Alba; Val Kilmer; Carey Mulligan; Haley Joel Osment
Typical episode length: 23 minutes
Number of episodes to date: Six
Brief plot description: Author-director Eric Jonrosh introduces each episode of his masterpiece, “The Spoils of Babylon.” The stage for tragedy is set when Richard Morehouse, a poor oil prospector with a daughter, Cynthia, adopts an 11-year-old orphan, Devon. After Morehouse strikes it rich, decades of sorrow and desire follow Cynthia and Devon as they take over the family business.
Why it’s worth watching: “The Spoils of Babylon” offers cutting-edge comedy within the context of a decades-long family tragedy. Satirizing such epic miniseries as “The Thorn Birds” (1983), “The Spoils of Babylon” uses egregious overacting, bombastic writing, and amazingly awkward special effects to achieve an absurdly pleasing spectacle. Will Ferrell is a revelation as Eric Jonrosh, the pretentious and hedonistic author of “The Spoils of Babylon.” With each episode framed by a drunken Jonrosh musing about his supposed genius, the series critiques the self-indulgence of the Hollywood auteur. The stars of the miniseries itself, Maguire and Wiig, display stunning comedic skills as Devon and Cynthia Morehouse, whose privileged backgrounds and forbidden desires propel them into lives of financial triumph and personal tragedy. Wiig’s wild eroticism and manic energy, and Maguire’s deadpan descent into a living hell of death, drugs, and poetry, must be seen to be believed. Other vital performances include Robbins’ hilariously earnest Morehouse; Alba’s marine biologist and poetic muse Dixie Melonworth; and Osment’s sociopathic son, Winston. Even as it satirizes show business, “The Spoils of Babylon” comedically critiques corporate greed, military-business ties, and the literature industry.
– Randy P. Schiff