Family Tree

family tree chris o'dowd

Family Tree’s casting pedigree is something to marvel at – from the likes of director Christopher Guest who, amongst others, has This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show in his repertoire, to lead Chris O’Dowd’s spectacular turn in the IT Crowd’s 3 series. So surely you, the intrepid reader, would expect that Guest’s latest instalment to a long line of high-quality TV series would be a dead cert as a cracking watch.

It has the making of a show that will bring out both genuine laugh-out-loud moments and that most elusive of things; a relationship with the characters and their storylines. So far, so good. To my surprise, despite all the positives on paper, Family Tree lacks that killer blow that takes an okay show to an excellent viewing experience…

The problem with the show is that the dialogue is contrived; this is just a bunch of actors carrying out their day-jobs, and this creates a sense of a lack of that all-important organic feel to a show. Similarly, the whole ‘mocumentary’ motif is well overdone as of 2012, and ironically Guest, part of the vanguard at the genre’s conception fails to bring anything new to the school.

This makes the show feel a little old hat. Added to this, the show’s core cast doesn’t seem to click throughout the series – the awkward nature of their relationships actually goes beyond the point of being funny and starts to become a genuine thing…just a bit awkward.

Though don’t despair too much – the show does have some great attributes! The acting, for the most part, is both reassuring and of the quality we’ve come to expect from a flagship show on the Beeb. The DVD extra features are thorough, informative and make up for what is lacking from the original series; that touch of accessibility and those genuine feelings we crave when watching a sit-com. And of course there’s the show’s entire premise, that of the quirky family in Middle-England – yes it’s unashamedly populous, but it pulls it off with a certain amount of flare.

All-in-all, Family Tree is an easy watch and a fairly satisfying experience. As a cinematic tour de force, it’s a pretty long way off. But I don’t think they were aiming for that… I believe the show’s cast and crew have achieved exactly what they set to do; to create a quirky show for a quirky British audience.


Christopher Guest | 2012 | BBC2 (UK); HBO (US) is out on DVD now