Improv champs behind HBO series

  • By Rich Heldenfels Akron Beacon Journal
  • Friday, May 10, 2013 11:57am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

I have long been a fan of the improv-heavy work of Christopher Guest, who as writer, director and actor has given us “Waiting for Guffman,” “A Mighty Wind,” “For Your Consideration,” “Best in Show” and other works.

The movies have storylines but they are at their best when the characters are set free to talk their way into ever more comical absurdity — while somehow remaining real and even touching.

Guest has relied on an informal repertory company including the likes of Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch and Fred Willard.

Another regular player has been Jim Piddock, and he along with Guest created “Family Tree,” premiering at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

“Family Tree” stars Chris O’Dowd — Kristen Wiig’s policeman beau in “Bridesmaids” and Thomas-John in “Girls” — as Tom Chadwick, a 30-year-old Brit who is adrift, jobless and recently dumped by his girlfriend.

When his great aunt dies, Tom inherits a chest full of memorabilia, most of it unrecognizable to him. He is especially taken by a photograph of an old-time military man who may have been his great-grandfather.

Tom begins researching, discovering new views of his family, and of the strange turns that lives take.

O’Dowd, new to Guest’s work but not to improv, is very good at seeming vulnerable and lost.

The story seemed to dry up as it went along. But Guest’s work has a way of sneaking into your head, settling down and becoming more likable the longer it stays. Maybe “Family Tree” just needs to settle in.

Watch it

“Family Tree” premieres at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

More in Life

Using a rod to assist in running wiring through an attic space, Don Thomas, of R&D Handyman Service, works on installing a ceiling fan at a home in SE Everett on Monday, July 24, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
                                Don Thomas of R&D Handyman Service installs a ceiling fan at a home in southeast Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
When fall chores loom, just hand them to the handyman

Here are three local businesses that can help you prepare your home for the rainy season.

And this year’s winners of Everett’s Monte Cristo Awards are…

The awards recognize local homeowners and businesses that take special care of their properties.

‘Happy Death Day’ applies ‘Groundhog Day’ premise on horror genre

Smart writing and Jessica Rothe’s performance make this worth seeing.

Adventurer 1st to finish Race to Alaska on stand-up paddleboard

Karl Kruger will speak about his trip at the Everett Mountaineers Banquet on Nov. 4 in Lynnwood.

Therapy helped ease debilitating pain after injury

Columnist Jennifer Bardsley shares her experiences with complex regional pain syndrome.

How to prune a hydrangea: An exception to the pruning rule

It helps to think of a growing blackberry vine when you’re about to cut back this blooming shrub.

Visiting Germany’s Lutherland, birthplace of Reformation

The sights include the church where the first Protestant service took place in 1521.

Can you top ‘Hamilton’? Author Ron Chernow is about to find out

The notable writer’s latest book, published Oct. 10, is a lengthy biography on Ulysses S. Grant.

Most Read