TV preview: Chris O’Dowd happy with Family Tree

Chris O'Dowd. Picture: PA
Chris O'Dowd. Picture: PA
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CHRIS O’Dowd no longer needs an introduction; the critics simply sit up and take notice of whatever his name is attached to, which now happens to be the BBC’s new comedy Family Tree.

After stints in This Is 40 and Bridesmaids, he stars as Tom Chadwick, a man who is surprised to have been bequeathed an old chest packed with bizarre items by his great aunt.

Having recently lost his job and girlfriend, Tom uses the inheritance to start afresh, and while investigating his family’s lineage, unearths a world of unusual stories and a growing sense of identity as he meets various new characters.

Created by Jim Piddock and Christopher Guest and with a co-starring line-up including Nina Conti and Tom Bennett, this looks set to be one of the finest comedies of the year.

And co-writer Guest’s chosen filming method won’t surprise his fans - he’s opted for the ‘mockumentary’ style that’s become his trademark following the This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show. But it’s Guest’s reputation that attracted O’Dowd to the show.

The actor explains: “I’d like to say I’m a big fan of Christopher Guest but truthfully I haven’t seen any of his stuff yet, I just keep hearing that people really like it!

“I was probably one of those students that had This Is Spinal Tap on in the background, so I could probably quote all of it. Chris is simply a genius. I love a bit of improvisation and because this is an improvisation piece I thought it would be a challenge.”

While improvisation was a big part in the filming of the comedy, the former IT Crowd star says. “A lot of the back-story was set out before we began filming by Chris and Jim. As actors we then come in and make it our own, add bits of story and detail, but in terms of the character that was almost like reading a script where it’s all set out.

“Chris gave me four pages of Tom’s history to work from and the same for the family, which was really important to this piece. I feel that Tom is the ‘eyes’ of the audience rather than the guy who is cracking all the jokes.

“There is a constant battle between keeping people engaged and keeping people laughing that is tricky. I think and hope [Family Tree] will be interesting and enjoyable to watch. In a way it is like throwing a can of paint at the wall and seeing what sticks, but hopefully the paint will be funny.”

Gok live: Stripping for summer

Channel 4, 8pm

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Gok Wan took it all in his stride, and ploughed on with professional aplomb.

Tonight he wraps up the series, by plucking more ladies from the crowd for a summer makeover.

As usual the catwalk extravaganza is bursting with tips and tricks to get you feeling fantastic and beach-ready.

Gok also provides a foolproof guide about evening wear during the summer months, and Katie Piper offers a step-by-step guide to keeping bodies buffed, preened and plucked.

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STV, 8pm

Even if you don’t know your azaleas from your elbows there’s usually something in this series that can help.

As the third series reaches its halfway point, Alan Titchmarsh and co are in Gloucestershire to help transform the garden of Kathy Mason, a mother of two who has devoted her life to caring for others. Alan hopes to introduce a touch of magic to her underdeveloped plot, by recreating the look of an enchanted woodland, complete with summerhouse.

Hell’s Kitchen

ITV2, 9pm

The ITV show which spawned it may have been cancelled after a few series, but there’s clearly something about the Hell’s Kitchen format that American viewers can’t get enough of.

The remaining chefs are challenged to prepare an intimate dinner for a group of returning servicemen.

Both teams struggle to keep up with the task, but the big question is: will Gordon Ramsay respond as harshly as he has in previous weeks, or is he mellowing as the years go by?