Skip to main content

The Daily Beast: "Family Tree Brings Christopher Guest’s Mockumentary Style to HBO"

He pioneered the mockumentary on film. Now Christopher Guest is bringing his latest comedy, HBO’s Family Tree, to a TV landscape crowded with the format. My take on whether he succeeds.

At The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "Family Tree Brings Christopher Guest’s Mockumentary Style to HBO," in which I review HBO's latest comedy, Family Tree, which begins Sunday evening, and which stars Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd) and hails from the fertile mind of co-creator Christopher Guest (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind).

Over the last few decades, the mockumentary format has become almost totally synonymous with Christopher Guest, the writer/director (and often actor) best known for films such as This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration. Each film—to varying success—mined the documentary format for laughs, setting up its eccentric characters as the butts of the joke ... or the only ones in on it.

It’s no surprise, then, that Guest would eventually seek to bring his brand of comedy to television, which has had significant success with the format: numerous comedies, from Modern Family to The Office and Parks and Recreation, have embraced the single-camera mockumentary format, allowing for characters to engage in “talking heads” segments in which they speak directly to the audience via an unseen film crew. It’s through this technique that characters are able to comment on what the viewer has just seen or will see, an act that creates an instantaneous and perpetual sense of intimacy. That rapport, in essence, sets up the audience as an additional, unseen character in the room, removing the narrative distance between the action and the viewer at home.

With Guest and Jim Piddock’s semi-improvised genealogy comedy Family Tree, which begins its eight-episode season this Sunday evening on HBO, the television mockumentary format may be reaching oversaturation. But for Family Tree, the result is nonetheless appealing, what I like to call “tea-cozy television”—nothing too precious or too taxing, but comforting to watch all the same.

The show, which features a slew of familiar faces from Guest’s previous film work, revolves around sad sack Tom Chadwick (Bridesmaids’ Chris O’Dowd), who has, in rapid succession, lost both his job and his girlfriend. Cuckolded and on the dole, Tom flounders until he receives an unusual bequest from his Great-Aunt Victoria: a mysterious box containing ephemera from his family’s complicated history. Rather than see the box as full of rubbish, he chooses to see it as an invitation to a quest: to reconstruct his family tree and come to terms with the Chadwick clan’s rather checkered past (and, one imagines, his own in the process).

Continue reading at The Daily Beast...

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

BuzzFeed: Meet The TV Successor To "Serial"

HBO's stranger-than-fiction true crime documentary The Jinx   — about real estate heir Robert Durst — brings the chills and thrills missing since Serial   wrapped up its first season. Serial   obsessives: HBO's latest documentary series is exactly what you've been waiting for.   The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst , like Sarah Koenig's beloved podcast, sifts through old documents, finds new leads from fresh interviews, and seeks to determine just what happened on a fateful day in which the most foul murder was committed. And, also like  Serial  before it,  The Jinx may also hold no ultimate answer to innocence or guilt. But that seems almost beside the point; such investigations often remain murky and unclear, and guilt is not so easy a thing to be judged. Instead, this upcoming six-part tantalizing murder mystery, from director Andrew Jarecki ( Capturing the Friedmans ), is a gripping true crime story that unfolds with all of the speed of a page-turner; it

BBC Culture: Matthew Weiner: Mad Men’s creator on its final episodes

The creative force behind the period drama talks about where his characters are as his show begins its final episodes. “We left off with everyone’s material needs being met in an extreme way,” says Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner of where we last saw the characters on his critically acclaimed period drama when the show went on hiatus 10 months ago. “Then the issue is, what else is there?” That is the central question with the return to US TV of the AMC hit, one demanding to be answered by both the show’s characters, and its creator whose success is the envy of the television industry. Mad Men has been a defining part of Weiner’s life for the last 15 years. He wrote the pilot script on spec while he was a staff writer on CBS’ Ted Danson sitcom Becker in 1999, using it to land a writing gig on HBO’s The Sopranos in 2002. It would take another five years, filled with multiple rejections, before the first episode of Mad Men would make it on the air. Someone with less determination or vision