The Spoils of Babylon (Thursdays, IFC), new miniseries: This 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 of American Hustle. Spoils parodies the sprawling ’70s/’80s TV epics that 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 others) magnificently.
Helix (Fridays, Syfy), 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 need to figure out whether it’s a sci-fi thriller, conspiracy potboiler or soap opera sooner than later. Then again, BSG never did. (Yes, I did go there, Moore-heads.)
Looking (Sunday, Jan. 19, HBO), series debut: Showtime’s Queer as Folk did all of the groundbreaking, taboo-shattering and whatever other-ings 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.” They’re just real people with real stories and problems (and waaay to 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 (Sundays, Showtime), 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 and Recreation and … that other guy) were a smart, formidable team—I mean, “pod”—but they’re nothing now that they have been 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?
Broad City (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.
DVD ROUNDUP FOR JAN. 21!
A poor slob (Ken Marino) discovers that his daily stress doesn’t come from his asshole boss (Patrick Warburton), nagging wife (Gillian Jacobs) or hippie dad (Stephen Root)—but a killer demon named Milo living in his stomach. What a relief. (Magnolia)
Bullet in the Face
A criminal sociopath (Max E. Williams) awakens from being “killed” by his girlfriend with the transplanted face of a cop; he then goes on a violent revenge rampage against everybody (including Eddie Izzard and Eric Roberts). Genius! (Shout! Factory)
Three party girls (Carly Pope, Samaire Armstrong and Diora Baird) steal $3 million from the scene of a drug-deal shootout; crime-boss (John Rhys-Davies) ranting, more shootouts, wigs and random girl-on-girl action ensue. Sub-genius! (Inception)
In a World …
Writer/director Lake Bell stars as a vocal coach who catches a break in the movie-trailer voiceover biz, pitting her against the King of Voiceovers—her own egotistical father. Also starring several funny people, and Demetri Martin. (Sony)
In the meh follow-up, Machete (Danny Trejo) is dispatched by the president (Charlie Sheen—sorry, Carlos Estevez) to take out a revolutionary (Demian Bichir) and an arms dealer (Mel Gibson); dozens of decapitations and Lady Gaga ensue. (Universal)
More New DVD Releases (Jan. 21)
After Death, Best Man Down, Black Water Vampire, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Charlie Countryman, Comedy Bang! Bang! Season 1, Freezer, House Rules for Bad Girls, The Insomniac, Life’s an Itch, Marc Maron: Thinky Pain, Paris Countdown, The Starving Games, Sunlight Jr.