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Series / The Spoils of Babylon

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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 novel in-universe.

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.

Tropes Found in Both Works

  • 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: The first is a parody of various prestige miniseries adapted from bestseller novels like Shogun and The Thorn Birds that were a mainstay of American television in the 70s and 80s. The followup miniseries adds Film Noir into the mix.
  • Author Tract: Invoked and parodied with Eric Jonrosh's blatantly left-wing views.
  • Big Fancy House: In Babylon, the Morehouses' house. In Dying, William Stygamian's.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • In Babylon, Jonrosh shows up as The Shah of Iran, in scenes clearly filmed separately from everyone else.
    • In Dying, Will Ferrell (unknown if played by Jonrosh in-universe) shows up as J. Edgar Hoover.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: The series are presented as if it's an actual 70's miniseries (Babylon)/movie (Dying) based on novels that are only being shown for the first time, with author-director Eric Jonrosh introducing and closing 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
    • etc.
  • Jerkass: Eric Jonrosh is an alcoholic, pretentious weirdo who's prone to sexual harassment, and may have murdered someone he loved on a drug trip... as well as many more.
  • Product Placement: In Babylon, Bagpipes O'Toole vodka is name-dropped. In Dying, the film stops in its tracks to advertise Boghei French-Like Cigarettes, Bagpipes O'Toole scotch-flavored vodka, biscuits, and even clothes from a catalog!
  • Purple Prose: Parodied and exaggerated, as if it were a Jonrosh trademark.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Eric Jonrosh.
  • Stylistic Suck: Pretty much the series' raison d'etre. It's full of Bad "Bad Acting"note , deliberate examples of Special Effects Failurenote  and an entire part played by a mannequin voiced by Carey Mulligannote .
  • Vanity Project: An in-universe example, they were produced, written, and directed by Eric Jonrosh who wrote the novels they were based upon.

The Tropes of Babylon:

  • 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.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Devon wears one after leaving Morehouse Conglomerated in later episodes.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Cynthia and Winston.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Not Blood Related: Cynthia and Devon are adopted siblings and lovers.
  • 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.
    Waiter: Yes?
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 it a surreal quality.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

The Tropes Before Dying

  • Anatomically Impossible Sex: Parodied in the sex scene that was removed in other cuts, and restored from a radio broadcast and original storyboards of the work.
  • The Conspiracy: The Mattachine Society, a group of rich, connected homosexuals—Wilbur Stygamian, who was part of the group, was assassinated for knowing about J. Edgar Hoover's being a Nazi.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: Parodied when Fresno's ghost visits Rock Banyon in a dream, then talks about how he will meet his doom, then just keeps saying "DOOOM!!" as she leaves.
  • The '50s: The series tries to paint a picture and handles it like Ecco Mono.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: More like "Get Me Some Booze and Pills."
  • Title Drop: In the song Fresno Foxglove performs at the beginning.

Alternative Title(s): The Spoils Before Dying