The Spoils of Babylon
New Miniseries: It features even more ridiculous revolving hairstyles than American Hustle, and it makes slightly more sense—maybe miscast Jeremy Renner should have signed on for The Spoils of Babylon, instead. Spoils parodies the sprawling ’70s/’80s TV epic few remember (Wiki The Winds of War and Rich Man, Poor Man, kids), narrated by “author” Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell), unspooling the time-spanning tale of a young drifter (Tobey Maguire), an oil tycoon (Tim Robbins) and his dim daughter (Kristen Wiig), as excessively and faux-melodramatically as six 30-minute episodes will allow. It’s not all gold (like those old miniseries, this could have been half as long), but The Spoils of Babylon showcases Stars Gone Silly (including Jessica Alba, Val Kilmer, Michael Sheen and more) magnificently.
New Series: Speaking of ’70s throwbacks, Battlestar Galactica’s Ronald D. Moore mines The Andromeda Strain for his new Syfy series Helix, then throws in some Walking Dead gotchas because, really, was a disease outbreak alone going to lure you in? A mysterious virus originating at a remote Arctic base—aren’t they all remote?—is turning victims into hyper-strengthened rage machines, and it’s up to Dr. Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) to either find a cure or set up a UFC farm league. The atmosphere is appropriately bleak and chilling, but Helix is going to have to figure out if it’s a sci-fi thriller, conspiracy potboiler or soap opera sooner than later. Then again, BSG never did (oh yes, I did go there, Moore-heads).
Sunday, Jan. 19 (HBO)
Series Debut: Showtime’s Queer as Folk did all of the groundbreaking, taboo-shattering and whatever other -ings need be attributed more than 10 years ago, but there hasn’t been a high-profile American drama centered strictly around gay men since (FX’s Chozen probably doesn’t count … yeah, The Only TV Column That Matters™ is going say it definitely doesn’t count). Looking isn’t the new QAF, and it’s certainly not the subtly-hyped Gay Answer to Girls; it’s something new, different and—here comes that overused adjective—honest. The series follows the San Francisco lives of Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and his circle of friends, none of whom ring false or over-the-top “TV gay,” just real people with real stories and problems (and waaay too many social-media accounts). If it clicks or fails, Looking will be the show talked about in a decade—but hopefully sooner.
House of Lies, Episodes
New Seasons: Now three seasons in, there’s still no one to root for on House of Lies; these brand-spin consultants (Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Jean-Ralphio from Parks & Recreation and … that other guy) were a smart, formidable team—I mean, “pod”—but they’re nothing now spilt apart, professionally or dramatically. The only element keeping me interested is Monica (Dawn Olivieri), ex-wife of Cheadle’s Marty Kaan and his chief competition—and possibly the most corrosive hell-bitch television has ever produced (in a good, if scary, way). As for Matt LeBlanc’s Episodes … I could have sworn this was over last season. Is there a Joey situation happening here?
Wednesday, Jan. 22 (Comedy Central)
Series Debut: Based on the web series—wait, come back!—of the same name, Broad City is about the disconnected dealings of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, two 20-something post-college urbanites whose daily lives are far funnier than those of Lena Dunham’s Girls (last mention, promise). It’s a refreshing contrast to dude-centric lead-in Workaholics, as well as the rest of Comedy Central’s schedule; Inside Amy Schumer shouldn’t be the only female voice on the network, even if it is the filthiest.