The show within a show that, at its January 7 premiere at the DGA in Hollywood, co-star Steve Tom called “an homage” to the over-the-top TV events of the 1970s and 1980s, is the supposed retelling of fictional author Eric Jonrosh’s finest work. Will Ferrell plays Jonrosh, while Kristen Wiig, Tobey Maguire, Tim Robbins, Haley Joel Osment and Tom play actors playing actors in the comedy.
“It might seem like a hard sell, but it felt very much in line for IFC,” IFC president Jennifer Caserta said at the premiere. “Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele sat down and they gave the pitch and I got it right away and it just hearkens back to when I was growing up and all of the epic miniseries that I was exposed to week after week on the broadcast networks. What I loved about it the most was, they pulled out the actual ‘Spoils of Babylon’ novel. This gigantic, six-inch thick, hardcover – just exactly what you would expect Eric Jonrosh’s masterpiece to be. They kind of threw it on the table and that was just the icing on the cake.”
(Writers Piedmont and Steele, who also serve as producers with Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Nate Young, confirmed this story. But, to be fair, they just re-bound an already existing tome. “Yes, it did have words, but not our words,” says Piedmont.)
Despite the Funny or Die connection and the casting of former “SNL” stars (David Spade and Molly Shannon also appear in the show), not all of the cast is known for their comic timing.
“Keeping a straight face in a scene with Kristen Wiig is a [feat] on its own,” says Osment. “There’s gotta be a separate award show for not breaking.”
Ferrell, who spends most of his screen time in an elaborate body costume as a character he says came about after Piedmont sent him “old YouTube clips of Orson Welles from the latter part of his career,” says he doesn’t think his fan base will have a hard time getting the jokes.
“You know, IFC has set themselves up as a channel where you’re going to see something unexpected,” he says. “And I think, for real comedy fans who know myself and Adam McKay are involved, they’ll be real surprised by how well it’s made, but also kind of insane in places.”
“The Spoils of Babylon” premieres January 9 on IFC.