Whatever you think of new BBC2 comedy Family Tree it is clear what it isn’t – the kind of programmes and ideas it spoofs.
In the comedy, legendary director Christopher Guest (of Spinal tap fame) takes a break from the action to treat audiences to some clever spoofs including Sherlock Holmes in space and a lame and sexist 1970’s comedy.
Family Tree is a semi-improvised comedy starring Chris O’Dowd as Tom Chadwick who endeavours to uncover the secrets of his family tree after having his heart broken.
But the action is interspersed with moments when the protagonists are sat in front of the box and we see what they are watching.
O’Dowd’s co-star Tom Bennett [My Hero, Eastenders], who plays his happy-go-lucky best friend, explains: “Christopher has a massive, massive love for that old 70s, slightly old-fashioned, possibly racist sitcoms that we grew up watching, and he has a real old-school love for them. In an ironic way – he thinks they’re ridiculous.
“You hear Sherlock Holmes in space and you go, ‘That’s ridiculous’, but then you think, we’ve done so many iterations, Sherlock Holmes in space, that’s the natural thing. Sherlock Holmes starring Ashley Walters is actually what it is,” he adds.
There’s also a send up of a racist 70’s comedy in which Meera Syal plays a put upon wife subjected to the sexist barbs of her husband who tells her she is too fat.
Another spoof is a mickey take of The Tudors. But Tom’s only real emotional engagement with The Plantagenets is with the lissome female lead – and he grumbles when he realises she is just about to be killed off.
These skits form the only properly scripted part of the show, added Bennett: “They were the only sections that were scripted and I think they got other genre directors to do those to make them look legit and aged.”
O’Dowd, speaking at Friday’s screening (Guest was ill), adds, “I imagine in some ways [Guest] was trying to portray what the antithesis to the show was. I guess it’s the black mirror of our show.”
There’s four in total to spot. And there’s plenty of extra detail to look out for throughout the series, including a shop owner continually logged in to online symptom checker, isitfatal.com.
Family Tree starts on BBC2 on July 16