The Independent Film Channel (IFC), also known as "the 'Portlandia' channel," has ordered two new original comedy series. "The Birthday Boys" and "The Spoils of Babylon" will be produced by Ben Stiller and Bob Odenkirk, and Will Ferrell and Funny or Die collaborator Adam McKay, respectively.
Stiller and Odenkirk, who have previously collaborated on "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Saturday Night Live," will executive-produce ten episodes of "The Birthday Boys," a scripted comedy series featuring the LA-based comedy group of the same name. The all-male septet frequently perform at UCB Los Angeles, and their sketches have been featured on Funny or Die. In a press statement, IFC described the show as a combination of "Mr. Show" and "Monty Python," featuring skits that address such pressing, real-world issues as "eggs, toilet paper and computers."
Ferrell's show, which he will co-produce with Funny or Die collaborator Adam McKay, will be an adaptation of a fictional novel by Eric Jonrosh (Ferrell). The series, titled "The Spoils of Babylon," will lampoon sweeping TV epics like "The Thorn Birds," chronicling the lives of a prominent oil industry clan. Like "The Birthday Boys," the series is projected to premiere later this year.
Following the success of "Portlandia," which just completed its third season, IFC is clearly attempting to rebrand itself as one of the leading producers of scripted television comedy, alongside networks such as Comedy Central, Adult Swim, and FX. Originally launched in 1994 as an indie film network, the channel has, over the past few years, branched out into the field of comedy, airing reruns of shows like "Arrested Development" and "Mr. Show" to solid ratings.
In an e-mail to the LA Times, Ferrell cited IFC's burgeoning reputation as one of his main reasons for bringing "Spoils of Babylon" to the network. "I think IFC is proving to be one of the few places willing to take creative risks with comedy, a place where the artist is trusted and allowed to follow through with whatever their distinct voice may be," he said. "I think that's why they will be pitched more and more projects. That, and the fact that they have a great dental plan."