Series / The Spoils of Babylon
In 1976, noted author Eric Jonroshnote
embarked on an ambitious three-year quest to film his sprawling
best-seller, The Spoils Of Babylon
. The project was ultimately abandoned as the initial running time was over 22 hours. That is until an older, burnt-out Jonrosh was convinced to agree to a severely truncated re-edit of two hours, and is now finally releasing his masterpiece for the world to see.
Okay, in reality, The Spoils of Babylon
is an IFC miniseries created by former SNL
writers Andrew Steele & Matt Piedmont that parodies classic television soaps such as Dallas
, and miniseries based off Doorstopper
novels such as The Thorn Birds
. The plot concerns the birth of a large corporation, Morehouse Conglomerated
, and the drama over the Morehouse family who runs it. Rivalries, vendettas, and forbidden semi-incestuous love affairs abound. The story is framed by the twisted narrative of Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell
), an old burnt-out author/actor who wrote the fictional Spoils Of Babylon
Followed up by a spinoff, The Spoils Before Dying
, based on another fictitious Eric Jonrosh novel. With the theme of a detective noir and Jonrosh's failed attempts at Beatnik slang, Dying
focuses on Rock Banyon, (Michael K. Williams
) a Jazz pianist framed for the murder of Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph
) who has to clear his name
Many tropes that get misused get misused here, and to slightly over the top, comic effect. Tropes used include:
- Actor Allusion: One of the shticks of the series is that the actors are playing actors, who in turn are playing the characters in the In-Universe epic 70's miniseries. One example is Jellybean Howie as Gumdrop Howard as Marianne Morehouse.
- Affectionate Parody
- All-Star Cast
- Ambition Is Evil: An intended message of Eric Jonrosh's story. Jonas Morehouse is willing to give up the profit and success that comes with a huge oil conglomerate by switching to a more environmentally friendly technology. Similarly, Devon Morehouse abandons Morehouse Conglomerated while Cynthia and Devon become drunk on their own ambition and feed the Military Industrial Complex.
- Author Tract: Invoked and parodied with Eric Jonrosh's blatantly left-wing views.
- Beard of Sorrow: Devon wears one after leaving Morehouse Conglomerated in later episodes.
- Big Fancy House
- Billing Displacement / One-Scene Wonder: David Spade (as Joseph Soil) and Molly Shannon (as Odessa Dobson) are credited in the opening credits of the first episode alongside the leads, though each only appears in a a single scene in a single episode. Shannon only says two lines and a grand total of four words.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Cynthia and Winston.
- Creator Cameo: Jonrosh shows up as The Shah of Iran, in scenes clearly filmed separately from everyone else.
- Drunk with Power: Cynthia and her son Winston.
- Dumb Blonde: Cynthia.
- Fake Nationality: Will Ferrell as Eric Jonrosh as the Shah of Iran
- In-Universe, Englishman Sir Richard Driftwood plays American Jonas Morehouse. In reality, Tim Robbins does. So maybe it's a recursive example.
- Going Cold Turkey: "I kicked heroin... I can't kick you."
- Green Aesop: Horribly mishandled by Eric Jonrosh.
- Incest Is Relative: Cynthia and Devon are adopted siblings and lovers.
- In Medias Res: The series begins with Devon being shot, and surviving long enough to drive himself to his office so he can narrate his life.
- Jerkass: Eric Jonrosh is an alcoholic, pretentious weirdo who's prone to sexual harassment.
- Mega Corp.: Morehouse Conglomerated. For the members of the Morehouse family who stay heavily invested in its leadership, being part of it does more harm than good to their character.
- Messy Hair: After Devon leaves to wander the earth after Cynthia burns down the mansion and murders Lady York, he sports a Bob Dylan haircut.
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: Jonas Morehouse is taunted by one about how his property and fortune are forfeit - right before striking oil.
- The Needs of the Many: Jonas', and later Devon's, ethos. The fact that it's not shared by Cynthia or Winston leads to problems to say the least.
- No One Could Survive That!: When Devon is shot down, The Generals state how no one could survive the crash. When we see Devon, He's in one piece despite his plane going up in a fiery explosion.
- Old-School Dogfight: Devon Morehouse becomes a fighter pilot during the second world war, prompting a scene of aerial combat.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Intentionally done by Tim Robbins (American) who plays Sir Richard Driftwood (British) who plays Jonas Morehouse (American). He goes from having a southern drawl to Received Pronunciation (with a lisp, no less) and back again multiple times in every scene.
- Overcomplicated Menu Order: "The Age of the Bastard". While Devon cannot get a vegetarian option at the steakhouse that somehow fits in the tiny submarine, Cynthia's order just gets more and more complicated.
Cynthia: Oh, and another thing?
Waiter: Yes, ma'am?
Cynthia: Ah, yes, could I have a carafe of tomato soup, two turkey legs
Waiter: Very nice.
Cynthia: I'd like some cold cereal with some hot milk, two pots of tea, and a white wine in a coffee mug with a little bit of salt in it.
Waiter: Okay, salt in it.
Cynthia: Thank you so much.
Waiter: Very good. Thank you.
Cynthia: Thank you. Oh, and one more thing.
Cynthia: Could I have a cotton blend napkin? Sometimes when you iron out the regular napkins, they're too itchy for my thighs.
Waiter: I understand.
- Painting the Fourth Wall: The series is presented as if it's an actual 70's miniseries based on a novel that is only being shown for the first time, with author-director Eric Jonrosh introducing and outroducing each episode. Thus, we get chains of actors playing characters playing characters.
- Tobey Maguire as Dirk Snowfield as Devon Morehouse
- Kristen Wiig as Lauoreighiya Samcake as Cynthia Morehouse
- Tim Robbins as Sir Richard Driftwood as Jonas Morehouse
- Previously On: Albeit a Previously On which goes over every event from the beginning of the series.
- Professional Killer: The two military officers who reappear several times throughout the series also do contract work as hitmen for Morehouse Conglomerated.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Winston, of course.
- Purple Prose: Exceedingly common with Jonrosh. Parodied, of course.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Prior to striking oil, the Morehouse household survives on canned squirrel stew. While there's nothing improbable about someone eating the meat of small rodents, the fact that the squirrel meat still has the fur on it as they are eating it gives away the surreal quality of an Alien Lunch.
- Scotireland: the references to "Bagpipes O'Toole" brand alcoholic beverages.
- Shout-Out: Eric Jonrosh's modern appearance is based off a later-in-life Orson Welles, while Devon's appearance briefly resembles that of Bob Dylan in one segment of the storyline.
- Shown Their Work: "Actually, my dear, Karl Marx wrote over twenty books..."
- The '60s: Parodied in the part of the story in which Devon Morehouse becomes a Bob Dylan lookalike Beat poet who's addicted to heroin.
- Slumming It: Devon initially tries to distance himself from his family, first by becoming a Heroin-addicted Beat poet, and later by spending time in an underwater marine research facility writing smear novels.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Eric Jonrosh.
- So Unfunny, It's Funny: Some rather strange and comical lines are delivered entirely straight, including bizarre forays into Shakespearean monologues in some scenes.
- Special Effect Failure: Invoked. The exteriors and many driving scenes are rather obvious, ranging from sets where the footage in the back is repeating, establishing shots being obvious miniatures and some driving scenes simply being toy cars dragged with strings.
- Spiritual Successor: To Casa De Mi Padre, another absurd Affectionate Parody filled with Stylistic Suck starring Will Ferrell and made by the creators of both Spoils series. (Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele.)
- Straw Political: Jonas Morehouse's business associates are a strawman stereotype of Herbert Hoover-era business conservatives. The writers of the show clearly had fun by having them complain about FDR using phrases that are nearly word-for-word from frequent criticisms of the Obama administration.
- Stylistic Suck: Pretty much the series's raison d'etre. It's full of Bad "Bad Acting", deliberate examples of Special Effects Failure and an entire part played by a mannequin voiced by Carey Mulligan.
- Tempting Fate: The banker in "The Foundling" repeats over and over how Devon and Jonas are going to lose their land, right before oil erupts.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Generals Cauliffe and Maddoxton fit this role, murdering anyone involved with the carburetor.
- Troubled Production: Invoked. Jonrosh goes into uncomfortable detail about the myriad of problems the production faced, such a three-year long shoot, divorce and implying that he shot someone to keep the production in line.
- Vanity Project: An in-universe example, "The Spoils of Babylon" was produced, written, and directed by Eric Jonrosh who wrote the novel it was based on and plays the Shah of Iran in an episode.
- Viewers Are Goldfish: Invoked. In the Previously On segments, all previous episodes are recapped. (Episode 4's covering Episodes 1-3, etc.).
- War Is Hell
- World of Ham