Category Archives: ‘Family Tree’

‘Family Tree’ (BBC2) Review

From Jim Piddock and This is Spinal Tap creator, Christopher Guest, comes Anglo-American comedy Family Tree, starring Chris O’Dowd, Nina Conti, Michael McKean and the writers themselves.

The series focuses on Tom Chadwick. Jobless, single and at a loose end, he is bequeathed a chest of family treasures from an aunt who he has no recollection of ever meeting. The items inside the chest spur him on to investigate his lineage, with the help of family, friends and complete strangers.


I was looking forward to Family Tree: the cast list was impressive and its plot seemed original. Granted, the trailers hadn’t appeared particularly funny but I just told myself that they were saving the gems for the actual programme.

As the credits rolled on the first episode, however, I realised that they hadn’t. What had been in the trailers had been ‘the gems’.

Now first episodes tend to either pack in loads of laughs, leaving plot and characters ignored, or develop the story really well, but all but abandon the jokes. Family Tree falls into the latter camp as by the end of the episode, although I was now familiar with the storyline and characters, I simply didn’t feel like I’d been watching a comedy – it was like Chris O’Dowd had been in a very slow episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. It did manage to make me smile – or rather the brilliant Nina Conti did – but it was generally unimpressive and laugh-free.

Perhaps Guest and Piddock fell into the trap of thinking that the naturalism of a mockumentary would take care of the comedy side of things, meaning they didn’t really need to write any jokes? At first glance it may indeed seem that the gags in shows such as The Office and The Royle Family (although not a mockumentary) stemmed from their naturalism but that’s wrong: it was the everyday, mundane things which Brent and the Royles said and did which made those sitcoms so funny, and it’s just that the everyday, mundane situations that they were in enhanced how funny their lines were. The writers of Family Tree seem to have got confused somewhere along the line: they created the banal situation okay, but they forgot to weave in the dialogue and actions to create the comedy .


All Family Tree seemed to show was that Chris O’Dowd and Nina Conti are great performers even with an average script – because, even if they did seem somewhat shoe-horned in, it was Nina and her trusty Monk who provided the best moments in this episode.

Let’s hope it will grow into a funnier, more memorable series.

Images courtesy of BBC and Ray Burmiston.  ©NBCUniversal

Family Tree is on Tuesdays at 10:00pm on BBC2

What did you think of Family Tree? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.


This Week in TV – 13th July – 19th July

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV – from Her Majesty The Queen to His Majesty (or so he likes to think) The Sugar.

Saturday 13th July

The Queen’s Coronation Festival Gala

BBC, 7:00pm

Gareth Malone and Sophie Raworth present highlights of this grand event from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, all to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

A host of stars will take to the stage, representing talent from across the UK and the Commonwealth, taking attendees and viewers on a whistle-stop tour through the past six decades of entertainment. Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, The Feeling, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Only Boys Aloud are just some of the acts who will be providing the music. The English National Ballet will also perform a routine.

Also today: Peter Andre is this week’s guest judge on Your Face Sounds Familiar (ITV, 7:30pm); Natural World Special follows a team of scientists as they aim to be the first to find and film a giant squid (BBC2, 7:40pm); Hollyoaks’ Danny Mac and Steps star Claire Richards go head-to-head in All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); New Zealand-set thriller Top of the Lake begins (BBC2, 9:10pm); and, ahead of the release of their new film, The World’s End, Pegg and Frost’s second film, Hot Fuzz is on ITV at 10:50pm.

Sunday 14th July

Law & Order: UK

ITV, 9:00pm

Bradley Walsh and co. return with the seventh series of the British version of American smash Law & Order.

The series opens with a two-part story about a suicidal man who has driven his car onto a railway track, killing fifteen train passengers in the process – but not himself. Crown Prosecutor Jake Thorne is straight on the case and is determined to catch the culprit, whose defence barrister, Kate Barker (played by new cast member Georgia Taylor) is out to prove his vulnerability and innocence. Then, just as the case finishes, and Jake thinks that it’s all over, CPS Director Henry Sharpe has a surprise for him…

As well as Georgia Taylor, Paterson Joseph (Peep Show, Green Wing) also joins the cast this series as DI Wes Leyton – an old friend of DS Brooks (Bradley Walsh). Guests stars who we can look forward to seeing in this series include Just Good Friends star Jan Francis, Holby City’s Amanda Mealing and EastEnders actress Glynis Barber.

Also today: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on Channel 5 – again (12:55pm); 2009 musical remake Fame (Channel 4, 2:00pm); family favourite Marley & Me (Channel 4, 5:05pm); one-off documentary A Race Against Time: Hilary Lister’s Round Britain Dream tells of the quadriplegic sailor’s solo voyage around Britain (BBC2, 6:30pm); a camper show – apart from Fame – is difficult to find on the box today as Rosemary Shrager, Jane McDonald and Louie Spence all take part in Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (not easy for Louie to say!) on ITV at 7:00pm; documentary series Wild Cameramen at Work (BBC2, 7:30pm); The Saturdays star Una Healy, rugby union player Ben Foden and Most Haunted’s Yvette Fielding are on All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); and Hunt vs Lauda: F1’s Greatest Racing Rivals (BBC2, 9:00pm), featuring archive footage and interviews to tell the story of the battle between the UK’s James Hunt and Austria’s Niki Lauda in 1976.

Monday 15th July


Channel 4, 10:00pm

Over four nights this week, Run (written by newcomers Marlon Smith and Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan) will tell the story of four seemingly unconnected people, as they are faced with life-defining decisions.

We begin the series with Carol. Played by Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), she is a hardened single  mother who is trying to keep her family together. However, that aim is to become even tougher when her 'Run' - Channel 4, 10:00pmson commits and act of random violence against a stranger – which results in their death. Carol is now faced with the hard decision of whether to protect her son or turn him in.

Showing from tonight until Thursday, Run will see Smith and Fajemisin-Duncan cleverly weave together their four gripping stories, which will also star Jaime Winston, Neil Maskell (last seen in Dates) and Benedict Wong, plus a raft of new acting talent.

Also today: Eamonn and Ruth kick off This Morning Summer (ITV, 10:30am) with a man who believes he is Jesus; as The One Show takes a week off, Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin present one-off documentary Eat Well for Less (BBC1, 7:00pm); Jeremy Paxman returns with more University Challenge (BBC2, 8:00pm); new sitcom Count Arthur Strong continues (BBC2, 8:30pm); Jessie Pavelka helps ten people to shed the pounds in Fat: The Fight of My Life (Sky1, 9:00pm); Harley Street follows the staff and clients at a London cosmetic clinic (Sky1, 10:00pm); and My £9.50 Holiday explores the growing trend for cheap getaways (BBC1, 10:35pm).

Tuesday 16th July

Family Tree

BBC2, 10:00pm

This new semi-improvised comedy stars Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The IT Crowd) as Tom Chadwick, who has recently lost both his job and his girlfriend. Left with little sense of who he is, Tom is bequeathed a mysterious box by a great aunt, whom he never met. When he begins  searching in the box, his curiosity about his heritage grows, leading him to trace his family tree – a quest which takes him from England to California.

Just like Episodes, a third series of which is currently in 'Family Tree' - BBC2, 10:00pmproduction, Family Tree is an Anglo-American comedy (having previously been shown on US network, HBO), although this series is also filmed in the style of a documentary.

As well as Chris O’Dowd, the series also stars ventriloquist Nina Conti (she’s even brought Monk along!) as Tom’s sister, Bea – although Nina says, ‘Monk can’t pronounce the letter B so he hardly ever says my name’. PhoneShop star Tom Bennett also features as Pete, Tom’s best mate who tries to get his love life back on track. However, judging by the person whom Pete picks for Tom in the first episode, he isn’t terribly good at match-making. You’ll have to wait and see what I mean.

Also today: Gok Live: Stripping for Summer (Channel 4, 8:00pm) and Robson Green: How the North Was Built (ITV, 9:00pm) conclude; Princess Diana’s Dresses: The Auction investigates the tales behind the Princess of Wales’s dresses (Channel 4, 9:00pm); comedian Seann Walsh’s new series about the weird and wonderful world of the internet begins (Comedy Central, 10:00pm); and there’s another chance to see Donny Osmond’s grilling on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (ITV, 10:35pm).

Wednesday 17th July

The Apprentice: The Final

BBC1, 9:00pm

After 11 weeks, 14 firings and one historic abdication, the Final of this year’s Apprentice has finally arrived – but will it be Luisa or Leah who is named Lord Sugar’s business partner?

The final task that the two candidates face is simply to, with the help of fired candidates, bring their business plans to fruition andLeah Totton create brands and launch campaigns, to be unveiled at a huge event, attended by business giants, and Lord Sugar himself.

So, will Luisa’s cupcake venture crumble or will Leah’s cosmetic surgery plan be left in need of an enhancement?

I really hope that Leah wins the £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar. I think she has been a great candidate throughout the series, never taking over or putting others down. She may not have a business background but she is a doctor, so therefore knows an awful lot about the market which she proposes Lord Sugar invests in. Luisa, on the other hand, is far tooLuisa Zissman forward in my opinion. I  believe her to be bossy and full of self-importance – just look at the way she bullied poor Jason into stepping down as Project Manager in the Dating task and pushed Francesca into being the chef on that of the ready meals. She slyly shied away from entering the kitchen herself – despite having run a bakery business for several years, and Francesca having very little experience with cooking. No, I absolutely want Leah to be this series’ victor, and I believe she has the ability to do so. Let’s just hope Lord Sugar is brave enough to take a punt on a business idea which he would be new to.

For the second half of this two-hour episode, Dara O’Briain welcomes back all of this series’ hopefuls and gets the first chat with Lord Sugar and the winning candidate in The Apprentice: Your Hired!.

Also today: SuperScrimpers: Summer Savings (Channel 4, 8:00pm); the first episode of new three-part documentary Myra Hindley: The Untold Story (Channel 5, 8:00pm); Philippa Gregory presents The Real White Queen and Her Rivals (BBC2, 9:00pm), tying in with the BBC1 adaptation of her book, The White Queen; Ray Mears’ Close Encounters (ITV, 9:00pm) sees the presenter study Australian animals; Diaries of a Broken Mind (BBC3, 9:00pm), as part of the channel’s It’s a Mad World season, follows 25 young people living with mental health issues; and Wheelers, Dealers and Del Boys (BBC1, 10:35pm) shows the daily life in a south London auction house.

Thursday 18th July

Britain’s Favourite Supermarket Foods

BBC1, 8:00pm

Day after day we are told that the foods we love are bad for us.

Well not any more. Cherry Healey is here with Britain’s Favourite Supermarket Foods – a series 'Britain's Favourite Supermarket Foods' - BBC1, 8:00pm which shines a light on the good things about the stuff we eat. So, whether its how milk can benefit the muscles or how tea – brewed in a particular way – can advantage your health, Cherry will tell us the truth about food, and for once we might actually want to hear it.

However, one thing we may not want to hear is whether or not it is possible to become addicted to chocolate – which is revealed in the programme. A lot of people’s excuse for their all-too-regular Dairy Milk binges may soon be unravelled.

Also today: The conclusion of Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits (BBC1, 9:00pm); documentary series The Briefs (ITV, 9:00pm) and The Hotel Inspector (Channel 5, 9:00pm) return; and one-off documentary Meet the Landlords is on BBC1 at 10:35pm.

Friday 19th July


BBC1, 11:05pm

The Friday drought on new shows continues. However, the second series of sitcom Pramface is being premiered on BBC1, having previously been shown on BBC3.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of Pramface, it follows teens Laura and Jamie as their one night stand results in them becoming parents. While the baby means that academic Laura has to put her career plans on hold, Jamie just has to carry on trying to avoid maturity with his best mate, Mike. The couples also come from different families: Laura’s is middle and Jamie’s is working class, causing further disagreements among the grandparents.

This hour-long opener to the second series sees the reluctant couple prepare for their baby’s christening – but without even a name for her, they aren’t exactly ready for the event.

Also today: Roman epic Gladiator (ITV, 10:35pm); and highlights of last weekend’s T in the Park (BBC2, 11:05pm).

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me –@UKTVReviewer.