IFC's 'Spoils of Babylon' Premiere: Will Ferrell's Miniseries Debut
"We knew they were going to come up with something creative, epic and stupid," Will Ferrell says of miniseries creators Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele.
When you see Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire walk into the DGA Theater in Los Angeles, you assume they're there to fete a blockbuster movie, not a niche cable network series.
But on Jan. 7, the trio, along with a coterie of other bold-faced supporters, including Molly Shannon, Chris O'Dowd and Bob Odenkirk, were on hand to launch their new IFC miniseries, The Spoils of Babylon.
For IFC president Jennifer Caserta, the evening, which also featured a star-studded afterparty at the Chateau Marmont, was as much a coming-out party for the satirical series as it was for her network. Though IFC has generated something of a cult following for its sketch offerings (Portlandia) and scripted fare (Maron), Spoils -- or rather, its A-list cast -- validates the network as a go-to destination for comedy.
A parody of vintage 1970s and 1980s miniseries of the likes of The Thorn Birds and Shogun, the half-hour-long six-part show was named for the mythical novel on which it is based.
Each episode is introduced by Eric Jonrosh (Ferrell), the fictitious overweight author of the epic, who divulges details of his struggle to turn his novel into a small-screen success. His story follows the patriarch of an oil-rich family (Tim Robbins), along with his daughter, Cynthia (Wiig), and adopted son, Devon (Maquire), who just happen to be madly in love with each other. Their forbidden romance results in years of absurd problems and at one point involves a marriage to a mannequin (voiced by Carey Mulligan).
Despite the complicated premise, Caserta is confident her audience will get the humor. "Even if you're not familiar with the subtle nuances that we're trying to convey in an over-the-top manner, it's just plain old funny in the delivery," she told THR.
The miniseries also features Jessica Alba, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Sheen, Val Kilmer, Steve Tom and David Spade. (Spade, who has a minor role in the series as a talk-show host, told THR that he stayed to watch others after filming his small part because it was so funny.)
Former Saturday Night Live writers Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele wrote and directed the effort. Piedmont got the idea in a Portland bookstore after seeing a old thick novel that, he said, looked like multiple phonebooks glued together.
"Matt wrote a text to me that said, 'The Spoils of Babylon: the epic miniseries based on the bestselling novel of all time.' That was all we needed," Steele said of the show's inception. The rest was figured out with back-and-forth emails.
When it came time to cast, the duo took advantage of their SNL connections to Ferrell and Wiig -- both effortless sells.
"It was a very easy yes," Wiig told THR of her decision to get involved. "I read [the script] and it was so up my alley, totally my sense of humor."
For Ferrell, his past experience working with Piedmont and Steele was enough to convince him to use his and Adam McKay's Funny or Die shop to produce the miniseries. "We trust them inherently," Ferrell told THR. "We knew they were going to come up with something creative, epic and stupid."
And Caserta just happened to be looking for a show with those three ingredients. "[Piedmont and Steele] were wise enough to bring their idea to IFC because they knew it was something that we would jump all over," she told THR. "It's certainly our most ambitious project to date but definitely something that one would find on our network."
Piedmont joked with THR at the premiere that Spoils is only one of 29 novels that Eric Jonrosh published, opening the door for potential sequels. Caserta confirmed the idea: "Eric Jonrosh has an entire library of very successful epic novels that we can turn into television events, so why not?"
The Spoils of Babylon premieres Jan. 9 on IFC at 10 p.m. PT/ET.
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