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'Family Tree' review: Christopher Guest's HBO mockumentary smart despite genre's staleness

Tom Chadwick is an affable British-Irish chap stuck in a bad patch. He’s reeling from a breakup, and he’s just been made redundant at his job. His longtime best friend keeps setting him up on disastrous dates with dim-witted women. Tom needs to Move Along, Please!, to borrow the title from his father’s favorite sitcom. Into Tom’s stultifying life drops a box of heirlooms bequeathed by a dead great-aunt. He begins investigating the knotty roots of his screwy family history, which takes this hangdog Homer on an absurdly funny odyssey into oddball quarters and pastimes (pantomime horse racing, anyone?). Tom, a product of his reality TV/self-documenting generation, allows a film crew to record his journey of discovery. Look, everybody! I’m interesting!

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Chris O'Dowd has a very odd date in new HBO comedy 'Family Tree' -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Family Tree, a new faux documentary series on HBO, chronicles one man’s attempts to discover his lineage.

After losing his job and his girlfriend, Tom Chadwick (played by Chris O’Dowd) receives a box of things belonging to a great aunt he never knew. This prompts him to begin investigating his past.

The show, created by Christopher Guest (Best in Show) and Jim Piddock (The Five-Year Engagement), features a lot of improvised dialogue by veteran actors — many of whom have worked with Guest in the past. Familiar faces Ed Begley, Jr., Fred Willard, Michael McKean, Nina Conti, and Bob Balaban will all make appearances in the new series, which premieres on Sunday, May 12.

In this exclusive clip, Tom is back in the dating scene, having dinner with a woman who has an … interesting hobby.

Check out the exclusive clip below:
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British cult hit 'The IT Crowd' to return for finale special

Another TV show is coming back for its final say — this time from across the pond.

The IT Crowd, a British show about computer guys and their misadventures, ended in 2010 but has gotten a reprieve on its untimely demise. Rumors have been swirling for several years about a fifth season, to give the characters closure and end things on the note that creator Graham Linehan (Father Ted) always wanted. He tweeted in 2012 that he had written a script but was waiting on the cast members’ schedules to open up.

And now they have.
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Christopher Guest's 'Family Tree': Round up the usual (hilarious) suspects! -- VIDEO

The king of improv feature films, Christopher Guest, is coming to HBO this May with Family Tree. The new comedy series stars Chris O’Dowd, who you might know from Bridesmaids or Girls, as a man who “gets a box of treasures” and becomes obsessed with his family’s history.

In our spring preview issue, Guest told EW that each episode has an eight-page outline and the rest is improv. “But we’ve written a huge back history for every character, which took us six or eight months to come up with,” Guest explained. “We’ve done an entire family tree going back to the 1700s.”

Watch the fun teaser below: READ FULL STORY

HBO picks up Christopher Guest comedy starring Chris O'Dowd

Filmmaker Christopher Guest is bringing his quirky sense of humor to the small-screen. HBO has placed a straight-to-series order for a new single-camera, documentary-style comedy from Guest, the director behind For Your Consideration and Best in Show, a rep for the network confirms.

The half-hour series, Family Tree, will star Bridesmaids actor Chris O’Dowd, as a recently jobless (and single!) 30-year-old who begins investigating his family lineage after receiving a mysterious box from a great aunt he never met. His research leads him to uncover a slew of unusual stories and characters, which in turn help him to establish a better sense of identity.

Both Guest and co-exec producer Jim Piddock are set to appear on the series, which will also air on BBC2. Karen Murphy, who worked with Guest on Best in Show and other projects, will also co-produce.

No word yet on when the show is set to premiere, but we’re already looking forward to the very special dog episode.

Read More:
Michael J. Fox returning to series TV
NBC developing drama about Cleopatra
Larry David doing HBO movie (but not more ‘Curb’ anytime soon)

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