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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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'The Newsroom' season two takes us way back in time to 2012 -- VIDEO

Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) continue working together despite their history and tense romantic future? In the promo below, Mac reminds Will: “For just a minute, you forgot that you were mad at me.”

We also get a look at Marcia Gay Harden’s character, a key element in the new season-long arc, which includes a deposition about a wrongful termination suit. And Neal (Dev Patel), who was so brash as to be a proponent of blogs last season, this time around latches on to another story his bosses are reluctant to go along with — the Occupy Movement.

Maggie (Alison Pill) “is going to lose everything,” which hopefully includes frumpy sweaters — but not a place in the delightfully frustrating love quadrangle with Jim (John Gallagher Jr.), Don (Thomas Sadoski),  Sloan (Olivia Munn), and the Romney campaign.

Watch the promo below:
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Full-length 'True Blood' trailer: Summer is coming -- VIDEO

HBO has released a full-length trailer for the new season of True Blood premiering June 16. While the war between humans and vampires reaches new levels thanks to Billith, some things remain the same — such as Eric having multiple reasons to be shirtless, Jason being at his comedic best when he’s in Rambo mode, and Sookie’s couch seeing some serious action. Watch it below. We get glimpses of everyone.  READ FULL STORY

Sarah Silverman gets her first HBO comedy special

Sarah Silverman’s  HBO special, Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles, will be coming to HBO this fall. The program will be taped in Los Angeles in May and will be presented in association with Funny or Die.

Silverman has had her own show, The Sarah Silverman Program, and a comedy movie, Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, but this is her first HBO comedy special. The lack of censorship on HBO will work well with her brand of humor. That being said, here are two great (and pretty tame) Silverman clips (the first a little NSFW, the second very SFW):
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HBO responds in court to 'Luck' lawsuit

HBO isn’t ready to back down in the legal case against Luck.

Barbara Casey, the former American Humane Association employee who claims she was fired for speaking out about the HBO show’s treatment of its horses, took legal action in January, claiming wrongful termination against the AHA, but also accusing HBO, along with Stewart Productions, which produced the show, of aiding and abetting an alleged animal abuse cover-up. (The cable network canceled its racetrack drama in March 2012 following a PETA protest and the death of three horses.)

HBO and Stewart Productions replied to that lawsuit with a demurrer that they filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court last week. The demurrer isn’t a response to accusations of animal mistreatment but claims that HBO and Stewart Productions cannot be held liable for Casey’s alleged wrongful termination because they were not her employers and because the allegations in Casey’s lawsuit are not specific enough. READ FULL STORY

'Friday Night Lights' creator Peter Berg to direct, produce HBO pilot penned by Damon Lindelof

The creative minds of Friday Night Lights and Lost are teaming up.

Peter Berg, best known for showrunning Friday Night Lights and directing last year’s Battleship, will produce and direct an HBO pilot written by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus), EW has confirmed. The show is an adaptation of 2011 novel The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta, who is writing the pilot script along with Lindelof. READ FULL STORY

Ryan Murphy sells sexy pilot to HBO

How many scripted series can one man shepherd at the same time? For Ryan Murphy, at least, the answer may soon be “four.” EW has confirmed that the mastermind behind Glee, American Horror Story, and The New Normal has sold yet another pilot: Open, a “modern, provocative exploration of human sexuality and relationships” co-written with Dexter co-executive producer Lauren Gussis. HBO has ordered the pilot; Deadline first reported the sale Wednesday night.

This marks the cable net’s second project with Murphy. His TV movie adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart will premiere in 2014, the same year that could also see the third installment of AHS (subtitled Coven), the fifth of Glee, and the second of The New Normal, assuming the latter two are picked up for additional seasons.

Read more:
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‘Glee’ guru Ryan Murphy shopping sex show

'Behind the Candelabra' trailer: Dramatic piano playing, even more dramatic hair -- VIDEO

Michael Douglas effortlessly playing the piano, Matt Damon yelling ”I don’t even have my own face!” and Rob Lowe looking like a shih tzu are just some of the fabulous things in this new full-length Behind the Candelabra trailer.

Douglas plays Liberace and Damon his younger lover Scott Thorson. The trailer hits the ups and downs of the couple’s relationship as shots of dramatic capes, luxurious bubble baths, and fancy cars quickly switch to yelling and glass throwing with the so-not-rhetorical line, ”Why would a grown man want to adopt another grown man?”

There’s also a lot about plastic surgery, which explains why Rob Lowe is almost unrecognizable.

The movie will air May 26 at 9 p.m. on HBO. Watch the trailer below:

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HBO to make Nora Ephron documentary directed by her son

Late filmmaker Nora Ephron, who died last summer at age 71, will soon have her life and career memorialized on HBO. The cable network is planning to make a documentary about Ephron, EW has confirmed. The Hollywood Reporter first announced the news.

Ephron’s son Jacob Bernstein (also son of famed Washington Post Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, to whom Ephron was married for four years) will direct and co-produce the documentary, which HBO describes as “an intimate portrait” of his mother.” The film will be called Everything is Copy, a lesson taught to Ephron by her mother, who also used her life as inspiration for her writing. READ FULL STORY

Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio developing Gorbachev pic with HBO Films

The Cold War has captivated our imaginations and taken over our television sets. But instead of stylish spies in disguise, HBO Films is taking the biopic route.

HBO Films confirmed Thursday they are developing a movie about former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev with the help of Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Neither actor will be donning that distinctive birthmark, though. They’re just helping to make sure the project comes to life through their respective production companies — DiCaprio’s Appian Way, and Hanks’ Playtone. This news was first reported by Deadline.

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Christopher Abbott not returning for season 3 of 'Girls'

At least one of the major storyline development from Girls‘ season 2 finale is set for a major shakeup. Christopher Abbott, who plays Marnie’s long-suffering, on-and-off boyfriend Charlie, will not be returning for the third season of the show, according to HBO.

It was only in the recent second season finale that we finally saw Marnie (Allison Williams) and newly rich Charlie officially declare that they were very much back on and ready to settle down. In a statement, Abbott’s rep said that the actor is “grateful for the experience of collaborating with Lena, Judd [Apatow], and the entire Girls cast and crew, but right now he’s working on numerous other projects and has decided not to return to the show.”

There’s been no word from HBO on how his abrupt departure will be handled in season 3, which is currently in production.

Follow John on Twitter: @JohnMitchell83

Read more:
‘Girls’ season finale recap: A Rom-Com Ending
‘Girls’ picked up by HBO for a third season
InsideTV Podcast: Is ‘Girls’ flourishing or floundering in season 2?′

'Veep': Julia Louis-Dreyfus's staffers snap and curse (even more) in deleted scenes -- EXCLUSIVE

Forget coffee — this NSFW video of Veep‘s prickly, foul-mouthed characters demanding cappuccinos with “crack sprinkles” and hissing about the “most important piss” their boss has ever taken should be the only energy boost you need. The first season of HBO’s caustic political comedy hits DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday; beyond even more deleted scenes, the release features a few shorts starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s hapless vice president, a making-of documentary, and commentary from creator Armando Iannucci and Louis-Dreyfus, among others.

If you still haven’t caught the series that won the Seinfeld alum her latest Emmy — for shame! — consider this a decent introduction. When even the material that got cut crackles, you know the show’s gotta be good.

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