IFC snags Will Ferrell to boost comic relief

IFC is out to prove that big things can come out of small, quirky shows.

Sparked by the success of “Portlandia,” the series poking gentle fun at Portland, Ore., and its offbeat residents that has charmed both critics and viewers, the basic cable network has enlisted A-listers Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller as it aggressively ratchets up in hopes of becoming a leader in alternative comedy fare.

Ferrell, who is currently filming the sequel to his hit “Anchorman,” and frequent partner Adam McKay, are executive producers of “The Spoils of Babylon,” which will be produced by Funny or Die, their comedy video website that is an outgrowth of their production company.

The six-episode project will be a parody of lavish miniseries such as “The Thorn Birds.” Like that project, “The Spoils of Babylon” will be an adaptation of a bestselling novel spanning generations and multiple characters, except that the book doesn’t really exist.

The “novel,” by fictional famous author Eric Jonrosh (Ferrell), centers on a family who made it rich in the oil business.

“IFC is either really courageous or really stupid,” Ferrell said in a statement, “which makes them the perfect partner for us.”

Also greenlit is a sketch comedy show starring the Birthday Boys, who have been featured on Funny or Die’s website and are frequent performers at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Hollywood.

The executive producers are Stiller and Bob Odenkirk, the latter of whom created HBO’s sketch comedy series “Mr. Show” and has lately been seen as shady Saul Goodman on AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

Both projects are slated to premiere late this year.

Jennifer Caserta, president and general manager of IFC, said the new projects fit perfectly into the network’s motto of “always on, slightly off,” which has been its mantra for the past few years as it gradually shifts its focus from independent film while also vying to put its stamp on a crowded cable comedy field occupied by Comedy Central, Adult Swim and other networks.

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