"Family Tree" is a perfect storm of comedy potential, the operative word being potential. The comic stylings of Christopher Guest and his improvisers, the format of a Britcom, and lovable comedy It-guy Chris O’Dowd should be enough. Sadly, they kind of aren’t. The DVD set of the first season offers equally lackluster features.
Tom Chadwick (O’Dowd) has an interesting family. His sister, Bea (Nina Conti) can only communicate her feelings via a hand puppet in the shape of a monkey. His father, Keith (Michael McKean) is an ersatz inventor with a love of British sitcoms. After receiving an inheritance, he becomes fascinated with his lineage. He then seeks out answers about his ancestors and ends up meeting more eccentric family members.
The show is mildly entertaining, but lacks the quiet comedic thunder of Guest’s films and the laugh-out-loud wit and high jinks of other Britcoms. It’s ironic, because Guest created some fake British sitcoms, "There Goes The Neighbourhood" and "Move Along, Please!" The segments of those fake sitcoms are included on the DVD set.
The other bonus features of the series are a musical profile of songs from the show. This includes the excerpts of the songs Guest wrote for the series. There are also bonus scenes. Sadly, there is no play all function for these scenes. By the time you watch them, you get why they weren’t included. The jokes fall even more flat than the show.
"Family Tree" does have heart. It’s a sweet show, but doesn’t have as much humor as you would expect from Guest, O’Dowd or all of England. It’s worth checking out for die-hard Guest fans or O’Dowd lovers, but it ultimately it does not satisfy.
Family Tree: The Complete First Season