Family Tree

 
(i)

 

Mockumentary comedy boasts subtle humor, strong language.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although it's constructed as a mechanism for comedy, the main character's earnest exploration of his roots nets some surprising family connections and brings him closer to his father. Kids who watch might also be inspired to look into their own family trees.

Positive role models

Most of the characters are meant to be goofy -- not necessarily good role models. But the main character is a likable everyman with ultimately sincere motives for learning about his ancestors.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Sexual humor is suggestive rather than overt, with brief jokes about masturbation and intercourse. The main character inherits a box of family heirlooms that includes a Victorian dildo and a used jock strap, etc.

Language

Audible language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "ass," and "hell."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Light social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Family Tree gets slapped with a "mature" TV rating mainly for its language (which includes unbleeped instances of "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," etc.), although salty talk isn't constant. Along with the swearing, you'll also hear sexually charged jokes regarding masturbation and intercourse that are cheeky, but hardly graphic. There's some light social drinking, too.

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What's the story?

When his great aunt leaves him a box of curious heirlooms in her will, down-on-his-luck bachelor Tom Chadwick (Chris O'Dowd) embarks on a quest to learn more about his inheritance with help from his father (Michael McKean), his sister (Nina Conti), and an old friend (Tom Bennett). But the twisty branches of his FAMILY TREE yield surprising secrets -- and an oddball assortment of quirky characters.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

There's a reason Christopher Guest is best known for his trademark "mockumentary" comedies and not necessarily for his own acting in other people's projects. (Fun fact: Did you know that he was the six-fingered man in The Princess Bride?) The main reason is that he pioneered the genre with his seminal rock-doc This Is Spinal Tap, which would inspire generations of writers and directors and ultimately spawn the likes of The Office and Parks and Recreation. But the other reason is, he's great at it.

Family Tree marks Guest's first foray into small-screen comedy, and he's delivered all the goods we've come to expect from his subtly hilarious feature films (including many of his go-to improv actors, from McKean and Ed Begely Jr. to Bob Balaban and Fred Willard). But with the addition of Bridesmaids' O'Dowd as the likable everyman lead, we also get a fresh face we don't mind following along a rambling trek through England that ultimately leads to America -- and a lot of laughs.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the "mockumentary" style has been used successfully in other well-received series like The Office (both the original British comedy and the American adaptation), Extras, and Parks and Recreation. What are the pros and cons of the genre? Would Family Tree work as a traditional comedy?

  • Family Tree is writer-creator Christopher Guest's first television series. How does it compare to his critically acclaimed mockumentary comedies, including Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman? Which of Guest's trademark film techniques pop up in this project?

  • Have you ever looked into your family history? How has the internet -- and easier access to online historical records -- affected the popularity of genealogical research and shows like Who Do You Think You Are?

TV details

Cast:Chris O'Dowd, Fred Willard, Michael McKean
Network:HBO
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Brothers and sisters, History
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:Streaming

This review of Family Tree was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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