Family Tree

A new comedy series from Christopher Guest for BBC Two

Episode synopses

Episode 1: The Box

Unemployed and unattached, Tom Chadwick is surprised when he’s bequeathed an old chest of curios by his great-aunt Victoria, who he and his sister Bea don’t remember ever meeting.

He finds an old black-and-white photo in the chest that his father Keith believes is Tom’s great-grandfather, Harry. With the help of his avuncular neighbour, Mr. Pfister, and his old school friend, Pete, Tom tracks down a rather unusual expert in the field of antique photos called Neville St. Aubrey, who discovers some very intriguing and revealing information about Tom’s ancestor.

Meanwhile, Pete tries to get Tom’s love life back on track by setting him up with a “model pretty” date. He’s just not sure what kind of model.

Episode 2: Treading The Boards

When Mr. Pfister discovers an unforeseen aspect of Tom’s great-grandfather Harry’s life, it leads Tom and Pete to the south coast of England, where Harry died many years before.

They meet an impossibly old woman, who still lives next door to the house Harry lived in and remembers him from when she was a child.

Their investigation takes them to a local regional theatre, where he and Pete learn more than they ever wanted to know about Harry’s life and loves from the two very friendly gentlemen who run the theatre.

It also results in Tom and Pete entering a very unique and interesting competition, but not before Pete has set Tom up on another extraordinary date.

Episode 3: The Austerity Games

Bea and Monk audition to perform at a children’s birthday, while Tom starts digging deeper into the life of his grandfather, William, who he suspects might have competed in the 1948 London “Austerity Games”, a far cry from those of 2012. After learning more about the games from Mr. Pfister, Tom visits his great-aunt Victoria’s friend, Mildred.

Mildred is able to shed some light on William’s former athletic prowess and on why Victoria left Tom the chest of family curios.

With Keith’s help, Tom and Pete are able to find the gym where Tom’s grandfather William trained for the Games. At the gym, they meet some old-timers who knew William. And Pete bravely accepts a challenge from a much younger timer.

Bea and Monk perform their first professional gig at a wedding reception.

Episode 4: Country Life

Tom finally has an interview for a job. He’s also discovered he has cousins in both Derbyshire and California and makes a plan to visit and learn more about the Derbyshire branch of the family tree.

Meanwhile, Pete has to perform a delicate “procedure” on an alpaca at the zoo.

Tom, Bea, Keith, and Luba drive up to the Derbyshire farm owned by their cousins from the North. Tom is interested to find out if the grass is really greener in the country and determined to get to the bottom of a dark family secret. Culture clashes notwithstanding, Tom gets his answers and some family truths are finally revealed. The family tree plot thickens as he also hears from his American cousin, Al, on the trip.

Pete’s life-affirming mission at the zoo proves to be a no less sticky venture.

Episode 5: Welcome To America

Tom arrives in Los Angeles to stay with his American cousins, Al and Kitty Chadwick, and to try and discover why his great-great-grandfather Charles emigrated to America more than a hundred years ago.

Al has invited two other cousins -- Rick, who also lives in California, and Dave, who’s on a road trip from North Carolina -- for a barbecue. As the barbecue unfolds, with Rick’s girlfriend, Julie, and Al’s neighbour, Mike, rounding out the party, everyone gets to know each a little better and they all put their heads together to figure out how the family ended up having branches in both the United States and England.

As the drinks flow, tongues loosen, and inhibitions are dropped, ice is not the only thing that gets broken underneath the California sun.

Episode 6: Civil War

Tom’s cousin, Rick, an American Civil War enthusiast, helps Tom try to find out more about his great-great-grandfather Charles’s mysterious activities as a soldier in the war. They visit a Civil War expert, Harvey Krupp, who agrees to investigate further on Tom’s behalf and invites him to take part in a Civil War re-enactment that he organises.

A car accident leads Tom to meet a beautiful aspiring writer, Ally Keele, and the attraction appears to be mutual.

Tom gamely participates in the Civil War re-enactment with Rick, Julie, and Harvey, but war isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. During the battle, he gets a phone call and some news from England. After the battle, Harvey gives him some even more interesting news about his great-great-grandfather which explains a lot of things.

Episode 7: Indians

Tom rents a classic convertible car and meets Ally for lunch, where they get to know each other a little better.

Bea and Pete arrive from England to share his last two weeks in America with him.

Tom has done some more genealogical research and discovered that his and Bea’s great-great-grandmother, Rebecca, may have been a native American Indian. He, Pete, Bea, and Monk drive to an Indian reservation to trace his native American past and meet Running Bull, a chief, and White Feather, an elderly shaman.

Their enquiries lead them to a local store, where the owner, Marty, reveals the remarkable truth about Tom’s great-great-grandmother. And a phone call from Mr. Pfister in London, who has Tom’s DNA results, tells him even more about his roots.

Episode 8: Cowboys

Bea and Pete decide to spend their last day in California at the beach.

Tom meets Ally again and they decide to spend his last day there together, meeting a distant cousin, Melvin Schmelff, whose grandfather was a famous silent movie cowboy star called Tumbleweed Tim.

As Melvin shows them some classic Hollywood history, Tom gets a panicked phone call from Bea... Monk has gone missing at the beach.

Tom, Ally, Bea, Pete, and Melvin form a search party to find Monk, but Venice Beach is no place for a monkey puppet to get lost.

Al and Kitty throw a farewell party for Tom, which leads to the discovery of some more dark secrets and a turning point in Tom’s relationship with Ally.