Who Do You Think You Are?: Season 1

While you may not directly care about the celebrities featured in this season, if you are interested in genealogy, you will probably enjoy this documentary series, especially considering that America is a melting pot consisting of people with vastly different origins, family histories, and backgrounds.


It seems to be that today there are more American television series based on British television series than ever - The Office, Top Gear, Dancing with the Stars, even Antiques Roadshow, to name a few. I have never seen the original British version of Who Do You Think You Are?, but the concept of this show is identical to PBS’ Faces of America hosted by Professor Henry Gates, which I enjoyed when it was originally aired.


The first season of Who Do You Think You Are? traces lineages and roots of Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, and Spike Lee. While I am not fond of Sarah Jessica Parker, it was quite entertaining to see her reaction when she was told that one of her family members was an accused witch in Salem.


Initially, I was afraid that this show was going to be more of a marketing tool for Ancestry.com, but there are genuinely surprising, inspiring and moving moments in every episode. For instance, Lisa Kudrow, Executive Producer of the show, whose great-grandmother was killed and burned with 900 other Jews in Belarus, breaks down when she meets her distant cousin, a Holocaust survivor living in Poland. I was also moved and informed by Spike Lee’s segment and his determination to pass the discovery on to his own children. He connects with a descendant of a slave owner who owned Lee’s ancestors.


Even though these two shows basically serve the same purpose, I still prefer Faces of America a little bit more because Faces of America is more about American history, and it shows how famous people’s ancestries define us. Who Do You Think You Are?, on the other hand, tends to focus mainly on celebrities’ ancestors and the genealogy research process. Also, Who Do You Think You Are? has more musical overlays and pauses for some dramatic effects. Don’t get me wrong, it is very fascinating to learn celebrities’ family histories too. With or without the sentimental music or pauses, I completely understand why some of the participants choke up when they discover shocking tragedies as well as courageous acts of their ancestors. If you want to know about other people’s genealogical stories, you will find this show enlightening and worth watching.

Review by Pat Trabi