HBO's Family Tree First of Four Genealogy Series to Air in U.S.

Though there's been a bit of a vacuum in genealogical programming in the U.S. over the last year or so, that's happily about to change. First up is Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock's mockumentary series, Family Tree (HBO, May 12th, 10:30 p.m.), starring Chris O'Dowd as Tom Chadwick. Having lost both his job and girlfriend, Chadwick seeks his roots as a way to find himself.

Fellow genealogists will recognize themselves in this trailer, meandering cemeteries, meeting far-flung cousins, and fancying connections, physical and otherwise, to long gone forebears. Though I expect the mirror being thrust in our faces to provoke a fair number of "oh, man, I did that" winces, it's also something of a badge of honor to be the subject of a Guest mockumentary, so I'm bracing myself in anticipation. Slated to launch in both Canada and the U.S., this show will also run on BBC, though a date has not yet been announced.

After Family Tree has run its course, we'll need to be patient, but three other genealogy series are now under production. Two of them -- Who Do You Think You Are? (TLC) and Finding Your Roots (PBS) -- focus on celebrity roots and are returning after prolonged absences. Among those lined up for Who Do You Think You Are? are Kelly Clarkson, Chelsea Handler, and Christina Applegate. Dates are still pending, but later this year is likely for Who Do You Think You Are?, while we will have to wait until 2014 for Finding Your Roots.

Finally, the other new entry, Genealogy Roadshow, is an Irish import and currently casting to tape in Nashville, San Francisco, Detroit and Austin. With an emphasis on family history mysteries, historical events, and "average Joes," this series will also air on PBS and should go a long way toward satisfying those who claim that only the rich and famous get their roots done for free!