Mar 192010

So we’ve now completed the 3rd week of the NBC series Who Do You Think You Are – based on the remarkably popular BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) series of the same name that has been running for some years now.

  1. Sarah Jessica Parker – a good story, but too many “un-be-liev-able”s for me. It apparently set the pattern for the series – a 2 min 30 second introduction of what the series is about. Each segment ends with a “what’s coming up after the break” and then the next segment starts with “here’s what we did before the break”. But great that she did find out she has ancestry back to the earliest history of the colonisation of North America with the Salem Witch trials.
  2. Emmit Smith – a great story – same criticisms as Episode 1, but it seemed a more compelling story as Emmit followed his ancestry across the “slave owning and trading South” to Africa. This was of interest to me as I have worked on the genealogy of a friend whose ancestors were born in slavery in Mississippi and North Carolina. This chart shows her ancestry. The people in the 4 light yellow boxes were all born in slavery.
  3. Lisa Kudrow – also a great story of travel and discovery. Although this only covered part of the 20th century as she travelled back to the village of Ilya in the Belarus to uncover what happened to her great grandmother and to Gdynia in Poland to meet a cousin who had bought news of the family’s terrible fate at the hands of the Nazis to New York not long after World War 2 ended.

A few observations:

  • This is a 1 hour American TV show, which means there will be AT LEAST 18 minutes of commercials, so leaving at most only 42 minutes for actual content.
  • The introduction in Week 2 was over 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I haven’t depressed myself further by timing the Week 3 introduction, but I assume it was at least the same. Since this isn’t a serial – like CSI or 24 etc it seems quite pointless to recap the previous episodes and “pre-cap” the upcoming ones – each episode is nothing to do with any other.
  • Once you get up to speed and the actual content starts, it seems like no time when we’re approaching the first ad break that we’re getting another pre-cap – “coming up……”. Another chunk of valuable time for new content wasted.
  • ….. then after the ad break (which thankfully with my DVR only lasts a few seconds!!!) we get a re-cap of what we’ve just seen – more valuable time for fresh content wasted.

Hello Lisa Kudrow:

THANK YOU for bringing Genealogy to Prime Time and the Mainstream, but

  • I don’t need to be told what’s coming up – I’M WATCHING ALREADY and will continue to watch after the break;
  • I CAN REMEMBER what I’ve just watched;
  • I don’t need to be told at the start of the show what we’ve already seen vis a vis Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmit Smith, and what we haven’t yet seen – Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields etc.;
  • This isn’t a serial like “24” or “The Good Wife” or “CSI” where it helps to be reminded what happened last week. Apart from possibly some interest from Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick’s children, these episodes are NOTHING to do with each other;
  • Just give me 42 (preferably more) minutes of new fresh content every week and I’ll be even happier about this show being on than I already am.
  • Perhaps instead of the pre-caps and re-caps, spend a little time at least giving people an idea on how to go about genealogical research – it’s not as easy as it’s portrayed to be – would that we could all afford to hire Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Natalie Cotrill, Dr Josh Taylor to have the needed documents all laid out ready to go.

But kudos for bringing genealogy to prime-time TV. I’m sure this will do a lot to raise awareness of genealogy and genealogy societies amongst many of the members of the public who are not so far aware or interested in us currently.

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