6/10 From Christopher Guest, the writer/director behind classic mockumentaries such as “Waiting for Guffman”, “This is Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show”, takes his material to an HBO television series for the first time, abandoning his normal, hour and a half theatrical films. The overall result is a mixed bag but still enjoyable. The most appealing aspect of the show is the cast. Chris O’Dowd is an extremely charming lead character but my favorite character (who I wish would get her own spin off show) would be his sister, played by Nina Conti as a woman who has a ventriloquist monkey that she needs at all times to maintain what little sanity she has. Conti, besides being an actress and comedian is a ventriloquist in real life and her talent in that department is truly a sight to behold. Several of Guest’s usual suspects pop up in small roles which was a lot of fun to see. The episodes are all roughly 25 minutes in length and with only eight episodes total, this is a quick and easy viewing. There are some laugh out loud moments and each episode having a different theme as our main protagonist further researches his genealogy provided several amusing scenarios, one of the best being a Civil War re-enactment. As for some of the negatives, Guest’s decision to use the mockumentary style here doesn’t really work. In his other films, they were real events that would be filmed like rock concerts, dog shows, etc. In his previous work probably half of each film was the documentary interviews and the other half what was actually going on. Here, there really is no reason a documentary crew would be following these people around and the documentary interviews only fill about 30% of the show, which feels uneven overall, like you could have cut out the documentary moments and replaced them with characters interacting instead. Despite some laugh out loud moments, several other attempted comedic moments don’t quite hit their marks. The show’s ending is also a little anticlimactic, although the emotional elements work well and O’Dowd’s character has a nice arc. In the end, if you are a fan of Christopher Guest or are looking for a new, quick binge watch, this could be digested in a day or two. Don’t expect it to be along the lines of Guest’s best work but there are some fun moments to be had in this flawed but delightful show.
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