“The Spoils of Babylon” is among the funnier new series debuting this winter, and hands-down the weirdest. Some people will probably love it, and others might walk away confused.
“Generally I want to say for those of you who will watch this, I’m sorry and you’re welcome,” Tobey Maguire, one of the show’s leads, jokes Thursday (Jan. 9) at the TCA winter press tour.
“Spoils,” which premieres at 10 p.m. ET Thursday on IFC, is a deadpan parody of 1970s-’80s miniseries about a decades-spanning between a man (Maguire) and his adoptive sister (Kristen Wiig). There is bountiful insanity — including a character played by a mannequin (and voiced by Carey Mulligan) — but the key to its humor is the cast playing the material with straight faces.
“We’re not sure we did find the line, so we’ll leave it up to people out there,” co-creator Andrew Steele says of whether he and fellow creator Matt Piedmont succeeded in playing things so straight. “But we definitely like that. We’ve been in comedy for more than 20 years, so I see both Matt and I pulling away from more obvious jokes. We played it pretty straight, and [the actors] were really committed. Scenes you looked at and sometimes went, ‘Is this going to be too boring?’ — but their commitment really pays off.”
Maguire, Wiig and the other cast members deliberately overact in their roles, but Wiig says it didn’t feel like “we showed up to work and just overacted all day.”
“We kind of thought of the characters as being playing actors who maybe were not as good,” she says. “We all had different actor names on set — we didn’t go by our real names, and that kind of helped. I don’t know how to explain it — the whole show is just kind of off in that way.”
Adds Maguire, “It’s really great when you get to play a bad actor playing a part. I would be at work and I’d talk to Matt and go, ‘I have no idea what we’re doing in this scene.’ And we would just keep going.”
“The Spoils of Babylon” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Thursday on IFC.