Christopher Guest’s ‘Family Tree’ Debuts, Promises Much Zaniness

Something peculiar happened to the die-hard, old-school Christopher Guest fans around the release of For Your Consideration: suddenly, they didn’t seem to enjoy the trailblazing comedic filmmaker’s style. As the characters got weirder, from Waiting For Guffman to Best in Show, the tone became more deadpan, until FYC dropped the “mockumentary” conceit completely. In other words, he’d crossed over to straight fiction.

Family Tree, Guest’s half-hour HBO comedy, which premiered with quiet British charm last night, brings back the semblance of interviews with its characters but retains that uncomfortably lived-in feel. It’s not explained right away why, for example, one woman needs a monkey puppet to interact with others, or why Michael McKean is fixated on 1970s BBC sitcoms—this is just how weird our world is.
Holding together the entire mosaic of oddities is The IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd, who stars as Tom Chadwick, a can’t-get-over-the-last-girl moper whose budding interest in his genealogy is the MacGuffin for the series: as he explores his roots he is sure to encounter stranger and stranger relatives (especially in the U.S., where it seems he’ll meet a lot more Guest regulars, including the unstoppable Fred Willard). A low-key antidote to the strain and stress of Sunday evening appointment television—what’s not to like, really?     

Watch the First Trailers for HBO’s ‘Veep’ & Christopher Guest’s New Series ‘Family Tree’

With Girls and Enlightened all wrapped up for the season, you may find yourself wondering just what to do come 10pm on Sunday nights. But not to fret, there’s plenty more television from that HBO spring from whence they came. First up, the Season 2 trailer for the Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led political comedy Veep has been unveiled and it looks to serve up even more of the particular brand of hilarious and biting Armando Iannucci laughs we love so much. This time around Kevin Dunn and Isaiah Whitlock Jr. have joined the state of affairs, as well as Thick of It Star Chris Addison (if only we could get some Peter Capaldi love now that The Hour will not be gracing our televisions again).

That one premieres April 14th but there’s also the new series Family Tree from Christopher Guest, the man behind Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman, etc. featuring his troupe of hilarious cohorts. With Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Ed Begeley Jr., and now Chris O’Dowd in the lead, the show will follow a man who "inherits a mysterious box that belonged to his great aunt, and decides to learn more about his roots." Vague, yes, but I am more than willing to give anything Guest a hell of a shot. This one, however, doesn’t have a set air date yet but surely that will come soon.

Check out the trailers below.



Why Dogs’ Show Names Are So Weird

Ever since Christopher Guest roundly mocked the cult of canine worshippers who attend the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Best in Show, we’ve harbored a certain fondness for the motley types who enjoy nothing more than peering up a dog’s snout or inspecting its furry hindquarters. Yesterday’s top prize at the 135th-annual awards was nabbed by Hickory the Scottish Deerhound, or “Foxcliffe Hickory Wind.” The Virginia bitch beat out other Best in Breed competitors like “Fireside’s Spontaneous Combustion” and “Redclay Dreamboat Lieutenant Disher.” Wait, what?

As evidenced in a slideshow on the Times today, dogs’ show names are totally insane. A little research reveals that this isn’t just an expression of bestial eccentricity: there are rules, rules about “Liontame’s 1-800-Hotsfuff.” Within the Mad Libs-like crapshoot is a complex system of coding. The animals’ names should contain the following information: their kennel; references to important ancestors; a “call name” (eg Spot) that doesn’t rhyme with any of the actual calls (sit, stay) or that might risk embarrassing anyone. Lastly, it’s got to be totally original. I guess that explains “Lennox Love Susqudilla’s Mini Cooper.”