Third-episode verdict: Family Tree (HBO/BBC2)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO
In the UK: Will air on BBC2 this year

Time to look back at the first three episodes of Spinal Tap-creator Christopher Guest’s gentle new comedy for HBO and BBC2, Family Tree, in which Chris O’Dowd attempts with the help and hindrance of friends and relatives (Michael McKean and Nina Conti and Monkey) to trace his family tree. And very gentle it’s been. Partly (or even largely) improvised, so far we’ve wandered around Britain, meeting English eccentrics of all shapes and sizes, looked at old photos and artefacts, and not laughing very much. There’s been the odd chuckle or two, but that’s about it.

Episode three at least was a slightly more amusing affair, mainly thanks to Conti finally being allowed to let Monkey off his leash so to speak. But this also led to some cringe comedy at a Greek wedding, making most of the final moments of the episode pretty unwatchable. O’Dowd’s side-kick (Tom Bennett) is also pretty hit and miss, heading towards cringe comedy a lot of the time, but not the painful kind at least.

There are a few storylines puttering away beneath the surface that could have potential in the long run and since we should finally be off to America with the next episode there is potential for the show to finally unleash itself. But at the moment, it’s more novel than funny, a series of observations and characters that you won’t have seen before, although maybe that’s for a reason.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: If it lasts more than a season, it’ll purely because of Christopher Guest’s star pull