Watching this new Christopher Guest sitcom is a peculiar experience. For example, the pieces to camera can look like a hackneyed device, worn out through over-use. But then, if Christopher Guest can’t utilise pieces to camera from his characters, who can? For a particular kind of arch, absurd, self-aware comedy, he wrote the rulebook.
This feels like a very new venture for Guest. Not only is ‘Family Tree’ his first TV project, but it’s more plot-heavy and open-ended than his film work: the box of family treasures given to laconic lost soul Tom Chadwick (Chris O’Dowd) could be the passport to as much digression, misadventure and silliness as Guest and the cast fancy, as Tom follows his familial trail through Britain and America.
The ‘Family Tree’ ensemble also contains Michael McKean, Nina Conti, co-writer Jim Piddock, Tom Bennett and eventually, such mainstays of Guest’s films as Fred Willard. So, even if this opening episode feels slightly low-key, it seems reasonable to assume that we’re in safe comedic hands.