Family Tree

Family Tree  TV show on HBONetwork: HBO
Episodes: Eight (half-hour)
Seasons: One

TV show dates: May 12, 2013 — July 7, 2013
Series status: Cancelled

Performers include: Chris O’Dowd, Nina Conti, and Tom Bennett.

TV show description:      
This documentary-style comedy series follows Tom Chadwick (Chris O’Dowd). He’s 30-year-old who recently broke up with his girlfriend of five years and was also made redundant at his “pretty sexy” job reconstructing car accidents and assessing claims for an insurance company. As a result, he has an unsure sense of his own identity.

Tom is feeling pretty lost until he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a distant great aunt. He starts investigating his lineage and uncovers a whole world of unusual stories and characters, acquiring a growing sense of who he and his real family are.

Bea (Nina Conti) is Tom’s older sister and is almost never seen without her hand puppet (“Monkey”). She’s been attached to (literally) the puppet for most of her life as a result of an early childhood trauma while visiting a zoo. She encountered a puffin “that was touching himself in an inappropriate way while looking directly at her” which she took as a personal affront. Originally recommended by a psychiatrist for therapeutic reasons, the hand puppet remains her constant companion and “inner voice” thirty-something years later. Although Bea doesn’t initially share Tom’s interest in their family’s genealogy, she gets much more drawn into it as his journey progresses.

Pete (Tom Bennett) is Tom’s best friend since their very early school days. He may not be the sharpest tool in the drawer (and mistakenly thinks he’s a major “player” in the romantic department) but he’s an upbeat and loyal friend to Tom.

The two friends have always had three things in common: “Booze, birds, and the Spurs.” Pete works at a children’s zoo as a “Cage Management Associate” and feels at home surrounded by animals and children because they’re his equal, emotionally and intellectually. He doesn’t really understand Tom’s new-found interest in genealogy but is always game for new experiences, so happily accompanies him on his quest.

Series Finale:     
Episode #8 — Cowboys
Bea and Pete stroll on Venice Beach. Pete hits on a well-proportioned and attractive woman in a skimpy bikini: “By my watch, it’s feeding time at the you.” She walks away, disgusted. Monkey consoles him: “She was a slut anyways.”

Ally shows Tom around the bookstore where she works. Tom invites her to come see his great-great-uncle’s Jewish cowboy memorabilia. To let her close up shop early, he chooses a book at random to buy; it turns out to be an illustrated guide to the Kama Sutra. Tom says he’ll give the book to Pete: “He’s way into pictures.”

The couple arrives at the home of Tom’s cousin, Melvin Schmelff. Melvin shows off a painting of Tom’s great-great-uncle, Ezra Schmelff, who played the cowboy Tumbleweed Tim. Ally and Tom examine Ezra’s hat, gloves, boots, and Star of David spurs, which are inscribed in Hebrew. Melvin explains that Ezra lived through “the horse riding and shooting, but he couldn’t survive the scandal.” He was in a love triangle (“really more of a quadrangle”) with Madge Dubois and three other parties. Madge was found “poisoned, strangled, suffocated and shot. And they can’t figure out how she died.” No one was ever charged for her murder. Tom laments that his great-great-uncle never made it to the talkies, but after hearing Ezra’s eccentric voice in his screen test for ‘Saloon,’ it’s clear that the actor was better suited for silent pictures.

Bea and Pete leave lunch and realize that Pete only tipped 6 cents instead of $6. Bea notices that Monkey is gone and panics. The pair runs back to the restaurant but Monk isn’t there.

Melvin shows Ally and Tom around the old site of Cottonwood Studios. The space is now a mostly deserted parking lot. Melvin points to the old office: “They still use that. It’s for migrant workers.” The tour is interrupted when Pete gets a call from a hysterical Bea. The group rushes to meet her.

Melvin, Ally and Tom find Bea frantic without Monk. Tom finds the puppet in a bin for a charity and offers a donation for Monk, but the employee refuses to give him up. “My sister is a 38-year-old woman who talks to a f****** monkey,” Tom pleads. “She’s beyond help.” The woman loses her temper and Tom takes off with the puppet. Bea is thrilled to be reunited with Monkey. She thanks Tom profusely and he admits that Monk is “part of the family.”

Al and Kitty host a goodbye dinner for Tom and their family and friends. Al shows Tom a picture he took with Tom’s great aunt Victoria, who also came to California to investigate her family tree.

Monkey tells Dave Chadwick: “I’d like to see you naked.” Dave admits that his wife is missing and Monkey responds, “Sorry. You killed her?” Mike shows off with some amateur magic tricks and his partner joins the party. The group is surprised to learn that Kim is a man.

Later, Al asks Tom to help him clean a glass that his “genius wife” broke. While searching for the broom, Tom finds Al’s “special room,” filled with scale-models of what Al believes to be government cover-ups. Al maintains the conspiracies include JFK’s assassination, the moon landing, the Titanic and a canceled Neil Diamond concert.

Tom realizes how much he’ll miss Ally and they agree to stay in touch. Later that night, they consummate their relationship, despite having agreed to take things real slow. The next morning, the couple goes to the airport and both confess they don’t want Tom to leave. Tom looks towards check-in, turns back to Ally, and kisses her.
Description courtesy HBO.
First aired: July 7, 2013.


What do you think? Do you like the Family Tree TV series? Do you think it should have been cancelled or renewed for another season?

Canceled and renewed TV show

16 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. jc says

    I loved this show and I was so sad that it had been cancelled. I had grown to really like all of the characters and being married to a Brit, I appreciated the cultural differences Tom experiences. Also, in doing my own family tree I have come across many similar situations when meeting distant relatives.

  2. Anonymous says

    This was one of the most creative and hilarious shows I have seen in a long time. I am so disappointed it is cancelled. The reason there may not have been many viewers, is because it was not advertised…kept too quiet. Bring it back!!

  3. Anonymous says

    One of the funniest shows ever…it made me laugh out loud. I kept looking for another season…I am disappointed. I do not know why it wasn’t advertised more…the viewers would have loved it, but probably did not draw many because the show was kept so quiet.

  4. Funny Fan says

    This show is so funny! I can’t believe it’s already canceled! Chris Dowd is great in everything and this is no exception. The writing is smart and the plots interesting. I can’t believe stuff like this gets canceled while they didn’t even attempt to promote it, while Real Housewives and other garbage get giant advertising budgets and go on for years…

  5. Walker says

    Sorry to hear Family Tree is not being renewed by HBO. Not sure how long the story line could continue…but, the first eight episodes were pure gold.

  6. says

    Family Tree is a great show! I love just about everything Christpher Guest has done, from his days at the National Lampoon, to the present. I hope this show is continued, or another show by him is created.

  7. Day & Alice Jackson says

    this show has got us wound up with it’s lighthearted humor and great writing. Kepp up the grand work.

  8. Wendy says

    This show is hilarious!!! I laugh at almost every line. How do they think up these improbable-probably scenes? Love it.

  9. jsb says

    To be fair, the line:

    “he inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a distant great aunt (whom he never met)” is incorrect. It’s discovered in the 3rd or 4th episode that he had met her a few times, he just didn’t remember much about the visits.

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