Season finale review: ‘Family Tree’ – ‘Cowboys’

A quick review of the “Family Tree” season finale coming up just as soon as I steal a toy from a kids charity…

I published my initial review of “Family Tree” after only seeing the first four, UK-set episodes. When I spoke with Christopher Guest, he said that things changed notably in the season’s second half, because being in America, around a different set of relatives (and, it turns out, with a potential love interest in Amy Seimetz’s Ally), Tom finally had some hope in his life. Other than the specific cultural references – a pantomime horse race in England, a Civil War re-enactment in America – the two halves of the season felt very much of a piece in both style and execution. This was a gentle, pleasing comedy with a terrific leading man in Chris O’Dowd and occasional bursts of hilarity (often, but not always, coming from Nina Conti as Bea and Monkey) – not an upper-tier example of Guest’s work, but one I’d be glad to watch if another season gets made.

I enjoyed seeing more members of the Guest repertory company turn up as the season went along, and particularly liked the use of Bob Balaban in the finale. When Tom has to explain to him that it’s not a missing child they’re after, it would have been very easy for Balaban’s character to throw up his hands at these lunatics. Instead, he goes along with it, because these people are now his family and you often have to accept a certain level of eccentricity from family. A nice, funny sequence, but also one that illustrates the show’s larger themes about what family can and can’t mean for you.

What does everybody else think? Guest told me that he could see the series continuing for quite a while, and the ending suggests Tom could either stay in California to be with Ally, or continue to travel back and forth. Do you feel like there’s enough story – and enough unexplored branches of the family tree – for the show to continue, or would you be satisfied with these eight episodes? Did Guest, Jim Piddock and company provide enough hilarity for you, or were you expecting the TV equivalent of “Waiting for Guffman”?

Have at it.