Family Tree Season 1 Episode 3 “The Austerity Games” Review

Rating:  6.9

“Family is what disappears when you’re not looking at it.”

This is the advice Tom gets from his father Keith (Michael McKean).   This is not surprising considering Keith’s poor communication skills.  Though I love it when he watches his sitcom on the tele, when he does so he is hardly connecting with people around him.

Tom’s sister Bea, and her monkey ‘device,’ also clearly have some communications issues.  Though we hope, throughout Tom’s ‘quest,’ that he will strengthen relationships with his family, we can see that it is going to be an uphill battle.  But we do learn that his sister is starting to appreciate the ‘togetherness’ of a more functional family, as she gets a peek at the large Greek family she performs at.

Tom learns that his great grandfather was a boxer, and also an athlete that participated in the low-budget ‘London Austerity Games.’  The boxing was not too humerous, however, in usual Christopher Guest fashion, the description of the Austerity Games over historic video was great and worked well.  Though there have been so many scenes like this, and even though the producers do it so well, I can’t help but feel that there isn’t really anything new being presented here.

The monkey coming back is another monkey on this show’s back.  It was well featured in this episode, and though the idea of an uncontrollable puppet is funny, it’s a little too unrealistic.  I am still hoping Bea will cure herself of this need to express herself this way.   She bombed at the Greek wedding, but to a lesser extent this bit bombed on the show.

High points, though, were Tom’s trying unsuccessfully to defend the positives of voids using theories about black holes, and a great scene with Tom, his sidekick Pete, and a girlfriend of his great aunt.  Plus the explanation of the tragic hot air balloon incident!

There is great built-in flexibility in this series; each episode allows Tom to discover (and show us) something completely unrelated to previous episodes.  But this week I really liked how they were able to show Bea’s admiration and need for family.  In a mockumentary like this, it’s the motivation of the characters, not the wacky stuff, that will keep us caring about them.

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