Here's the thing about satire: Parody has a sharper sting if what's being ridiculed is actually relevant. And while it looks like everyone's having a grand time lampooning the old-school histrionics of the classic TV miniseries "epic" in IFC's elaborate all-star Funny or Die put-on The Spoils of Babylon, I'm afraid the fun isn't all that contagious, in part because the joke is such a stale one to begin with.
The whole enterprise, which consists of six half-hour chapters (the first two airing back-to-back starting Thursday at 10/9c), has the musty whiff of one of those movies derived from so-so Saturday Night Live sketches. Each installment opens with a staged intro, featuring a heavily made-up Will Ferrell as a rotund Orson Welles-like egomaniac impresario (described as "author, producer, actor, writer, director, raconteur, bon vivant, legend, fabulist" — and that's just the first episode's credits) who sinks further and further into his (wine) cups as he reflects on his lost late-'70s "masterpiece," which he self-financed as if he were Scrooge McDuck.
Once upon a very different time, Lisa Kudrow owned Thursday night along with her other TV Friends during NBC's now-distant era of "Must See" supremacy. She's back on the same night, on a different network, but once again she's landed on the buzziest show of the moment: ABC's Scandal (10/9c), where she begins a recurring role as Josephine Marcus, a Democratic Congresswoman — and outspoken critic of the Grant administration — who tangles with First Lady Mellie (the awesome Bellamy Young). What drew Kudrow back to network TV? May have something to do with her longtime friendship and working relationship with producing partner (and guest actor Emmy winner) Dan Bucatinsky, who plays Cyrus's excitable partner James on the show. While she's reason enough to tune in, the Pope & Associates subplot also sounds like fun, as they take on as a client a politician notorious for snapping photos of his unmentionables. (Sound familiar?)
This fall you can really feel the Modern Family influence in the development of most networks' new comedy slates, and it's especially noticeable on NBC's Thursday lineup. With the exception of the long-running Parks and Recreation, which until the double expectancy whammy of Ann Perkins and Ron's Diane had been curiously child-free for a show supposedly set in America's heartland, NBC's new sitcoms are very much in the family way, for better or worse.
One actually bills itself as Welcome to the Family (8:31/7:31c), and if familiarity is a prerequisite for your viewing patterns, you'll feel right at home here. This innocuous domestic farce pivots on a culture clash between...
Pity the network that has to follow cable at the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills. Such was long-time underdog NBC's lot on Saturday, putting its happiest face on a mixed bag of new fall programming in front of an audience that just a day earlier had sat in rapt fascination as the cast and creator of AMC's Breaking Bad presented their farewell TCA panel — the first episode of its final run (airing Aug. 11) is as gripping as you could hope, by the way. The cable portion of TCA also included a spectacularly geek-tastic celebration of Doctor Who's upcoming 50th anniversary staged by BBC America (complete with TARDIS and Dalek, a roving Cyberman and a museum-quality display of costumes and props).
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Will & Grace is returning to NBC ... sort of. The better half of Will & Grace is returning to NBC — aka Just Jack ... minus Karen.
Sean Hayes comes back to the network that made him a household name in his new comedy Sean Saves the World. In the multi-camera sitcom, Hayes stars as...