Family Tree: “Civil War”

“What do you think of my owls?”

While Family Tree’s sixth episode “Civil War” was largely average, there were a few moments that stood out – this being one of them. Tom Chadwick visits Rick and Julie’s apartment near Redondo Beach in California. The front door opens to a living room full of owls. Porcelain owls, owl lamps, owl paintings and of course, owl stuffed animals. It’s completely ridiculous. How can someone live like that? But it happens. Now, the owls are Julie’s obsession. Rick has his own – the US Civil War. “This is an authentic replica of a Civil War blanket.” As I was laughing at the absurdity of Rick’s comment, I caught myself. Honestly, is my Star Wars obsession any different? This is my authentic 1977 Star Wars movie record, the same one I would listen to each night as a child to fall asleep. Am I that pathetic? It’s interesting how we cling to odd things in life, yet all provide a comfort, happiness – no matter how foolish they appear to others. Maybe it doesn’t really matter. If it makes one happy, live long and prosper. Oh, that’s from my other obsession.

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“Civil War” follows more of Tom’s journey uncovering the truth behind his great-great-grandfather, Charles’s, mysterious pilgrimage from the Eastern United States to Britain in the mid 1800’s. Not only has this brought Tom to the US, it has created a slight civil war within his extended family as well. Al has suspicions about Harry, believing first he could have helped John Wilkes Booth assassinate Abraham Lincoln, and now that Harry was a double, if not triple agent in the US Civil War. The Chadwick family has unearthed two pictures of Harry as a Civil War soldier, one in a Union uniform, and one dressed as a Confederate soldier. This leads Tom to investigate further, eventually getting a chance to participate in a Civil War battle reenactment. Finally, Tom learns his great-grandfather had both uniforms so he could visit the woman he loved, crossing over behind enemy lines.

“Civil War” had the makings of a solid episode with its subtle humor and exposure of awkward moments but falls flat at mid-point. The idea of a Civil War reenactment sounds like it could be a riot, but it’s not particularly funny. Perhaps creators Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock wanted to expose the nonsensical nature of such a thing. I felt like I was watching more a reenactment itself, not a parody of such an event. But for the humorous nature of a show such as Family Tree, it didn’t work.

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Keeping “Civil War” afloat are the little moments in Tom’s life which are amusing. One such involves Tom’s witness to a car accident. Going over to offer his assistance, Tom is accosted by an irate man who pokes fun at Tom’s accent, linking him to the little green man on the cereal boxes of Lucky Charms. Tom accuses the man of mythical racism. It’s here where Family Tree is at its best. Smart. Quick witted. Subtlety awkward. Quirky characters. These are the things that keep me coming back, only there wasn’t nearly enough of it in “Civil War.”

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