Last year, IFC launched a really odd series called The Spoils of Babylon. It starred Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig as the lead actors in a 1970s TV event series, based on a book by a fictional author named Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell). Meta inside of meta. Fans of the series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place will know the type.
The weirdest thing about The Spoils of Babylon was figuring out who the audience was supposed to be. The casting and the quirk factor made it feel like it was aimed at a younger audience, but then, who in that age group would be well-versed in the pageantry of grandiose 70s miniseries? Especially since so many of Babylon‘s jokes were basically insider commentary on them.
In any case, Babylon was apparently enough of a hit for IFC that they have aimed for a sequel, The Spoils Before Dying. It will again be based on a book by Jonrosh, and Ferrell will reprise his role as the “booze-soaked author,” who bookends each episode (much like Masterpiece Theater does). This time, Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire, but most of you probably just know him as Omar from The Wire) will be taking the lead.
According to IFC,
A pulp-noir murder mystery set in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles’ jazz scene, The Spoils Before Dying follows down-and-out pianist Rock Banyon (Michael Kenneth Williams) who becomes the prime suspect when his lead singer and occasional lover is found violently murdered in a car with another man. With the death of two people hanging over his head, Rock has only 72 hours to clear his name or fry in the electric chair. Determined to prove his innocence, Rock goes on an elusive quest for the truth that takes him into an abyss of sex, murder, love, betrayal, and of course, jazz.
In a slight twist to Babylon, The Spoils Before Dying is “new” to TV, being deemed (in its fictional world) as “too risqué for the safe and sanitized living rooms of a 1950’s postwar nation.“
Spoils Before Dying also seems a little more accessible than Babylon, but I’m still expecting a lot of inside jokes about the censorship of the studio era. Regardless, seeing Michael K. Williams in this kind of role should be fantastic. The 6-episode miniseries is produced by Funny or Die, with Andrew Steele writing the series alongside Matt Piedmont (who is also directing).
If your interest has been piqued regarding Babylon, here’s a little more info on it from IFC’s press release, along with the trailer. The Spoils Before Dying is set to premiere this summer.
Jonrosh first introduced television audiences to his storytelling brilliance with the masterful adaptation of his novel The Spoils of Babylon, a sweeping chronicle of the captivating Morehouse family. One of IFC’s most watched and buzzed-about comedies, The Spoils of Babylon showcased a historic cast, including Jessica Alba, Will Ferrell, Jellybean Howie, Val Kilmer, Tobey Maguire, Haley Joel Osment, Tim Robbins, Michael Sheen, Steve Tom and Kristen Wiig, with cameos by Molly Shannon and David Spade. Kristen Wiig was nominated for an Emmy™ in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or Movies for her role as Cynthia Morehouse. The Spoils of Babylon is available for streaming now on Netflix.