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Thread: Who Do You Think You Are?

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    Bitten Critical's Avatar
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    Who Do You Think You Are?

    We discussed the first season of the show in a thread for Faces of America, but I thought it deserved its own thread.

    NBC's acclaimed alternative series "Who Do You Think You Are?" follows some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees. From the trenches of the Civil War to the shores of the Caribbean, and from the valleys of Virginia to the island nations of Australia and Ireland, each episode will reveal surprising, inspiring and sometimes tragic stories that are often linked to events in American and international history.

    The celebrities featured in the second season are Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams and Ashley Judd.

    Each week, a different celebrity is taken on a quest into his or her family history. The search is one of surprising and deeply emotional encounters, resulting in one of the most compelling reality formats of recent years. During each episode, viewers will be taken on a personal and often mysterious quest following some of America's best-known celebrities into their ancestral pasts, as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue, that lie at the heart of their family history.

    At the same time, "Who Do You Think You Are?" celebrates the twists and turns of a great nation and the people who made their way here in search of freedom and opportunity. As each celebrity discovers his or her unknown relatives - most of whom overcame hard times - the show will take viewers back through world history to expose how the lives of everyone's collective ancestors have shaped our world today.
    Did anyone else watch the first episode tonight? I was struck again by two things - 1) the genealogists working with these celebrities work really hard and 2) (and it's probably petty), I don't think Vanessa Williams said "thank you" to one of them. Maybe she did and they didn't show it, but it seemed pretty glaring to me. I don't remember noticing that last season.

    I really do enjoy this show and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season. While the celebrity stuff is fine, I think the stories of "regular" people are much more interesting.
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

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    FORT Fogey Dragonlady's Avatar
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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    I won't be watching. I love the concept but I'm just not interested in dedicating more "me-time" to Hollywood celebs. I'd be more interested if it was about your average Joe and his/her family history. Love history. On oveload with Celebs.

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    FORT Fogey cablejockey's Avatar
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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    I agree about the me time for celebrities. It would be nice to see a regular person getting this kind of extra help in tracing family history that I imagine the regular guy just wouldnt be getting unless they had a tv show backing them up. It seems that the access to archives and records are not open to everyone off the street!

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    FORT Fogey
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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    I would also be just as happy if it were ordinary people whose genealogies were being traced, because, to me, the story isn't about the celebrity--it's about the people in their family, who, by and large, weren't necessarily celebrities at all. That's why I watch--for the stories of the ordinary/extraordinary people who came before the celebrity. I don't even care who the celebrity is, though I suppose if it were someone I found particularly reprehensible, I wouldn't watch.

    I think it would be interesting if they tried to get some more celebrities from beyond Euro-American or African-American backgrounds involved. Surely there must be some Asian-American or Mexican-American celebrity, for instance, who would be willing to participate. It can't be the overseas/foreign travel that might be involved that's holding them back, because other episodes have involved such expenses.

    Oh, and does it ever irritate anyone else that they sometimes drop points inexplicably that seem worthy of further research? Vanessa Williams made a big deal out of how difficult it must have been for an interracial couple in 1870--a point well taken--and then they just went on. If that were my genealogical process, I'd want to know about the woman's side of the family too--what was the reaction there to her marrying a black man back then? Was the couple accepted by either/both sides of the family? What was the community reaction? That kind of thing would be historically interesting to the audience too, but they never pursued it.

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    FORT Fogey psucashcow's Avatar
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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    I watched last night's episode and thought it was well done. Lisa Kudrow commented in a video about viewers' questions that determining factors included whether there was a paper trail because showcasing the celeb viewing documents is a big plus. I agree that it would have been interesting to follow the white mother's family story, but I'm sure the producers wanted to showcase the portion of Vanessa's family that became teachers in Reconstruction and also served in the TN state house.

    As for other ethnic backgrounds, Faces of America last year pretty much covered Hispanic and Asian with Yo Yo Ma and Eva Longoria. Another comment from Lisa Kudrow during the questions vdeo was that while they may contact many many individuals about showcasing their family stories but if there's no interest or intellectual curiosity, as she termed it, then they don't have a subject.

    Personally I'm going to try again for the stupid Family Sweepstakes.
    Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day---Harry S. Truman

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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tilden;4180375;
    Oh, and does it ever irritate anyone else that they sometimes drop points inexplicably that seem worthy of further research? Vanessa Williams made a big deal out of how difficult it must have been for an interracial couple in 1870--a point well taken--and then they just went on. If that were my genealogical process, I'd want to know about the woman's side of the family too--what was the reaction there to her marrying a black man back then? Was the couple accepted by either/both sides of the family? What was the community reaction? That kind of thing would be historically interesting to the audience too, but they never pursued it.
    I think the problem is that they're working within the constraints of a one hour format, so they can only do so much. Also, the things you mentioned - how people in the family felt about it, etc. - are probably not things a genealogist would find unless someone was keeping a detailed journal or had letters in which they were discussed and that's really rare.

    I don't watch any of the celeb news shows any more, but I like this show a lot. I think the use of celebrities to pull viewers in and maybe make them interested in pursuing their own quest is a great idea.

    This show uses celebs, but they never really feel like celebrities to me: they feel like normal people. The stories they uncover are much more interesting than any celeb-focused show.

    They did more varied ethnicities on Faces of America - Eva Longoria and YoYo Ma come to mind. As an amateur genealogist, I find it ALL interesting though, I must say.
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

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    FORT Fogey Debb70's Avatar
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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Critical;4180191;
    We discussed the first season of the show in a thread for Faces of America, but I thought it deserved its own thread.



    Did anyone else watch the first episode tonight? I was struck again by two things - 1) the genealogists working with these celebrities work really hard and 2) (and it's probably petty), I don't think Vanessa Williams said "thank you" to one of them. Maybe she did and they didn't show it, but it seemed pretty glaring to me. I don't remember noticing that last season.

    I really do enjoy this show and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season. While the celebrity stuff is fine, I think the stories of "regular" people are much more interesting.

    I agree about Ms. Williams. I kept thinking Thank you, would come, but I never saw it either. That's pretty bad. Those people really did so much to accomodate her and she seemed matter of fact about it. Last season everyone showed their appreication. I hope the remainder of this season is like that.

    I must disagree with most you, as I like the celebrities being featured. Most of them are older established celebs who have been around for a long time. I find their family tree fascinating. I'm really enjoying this show. I have highly recommended it to others, especially my family. Besides Big Love, it may just be my new favorite show.

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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Debb70;4184621;
    I agree about Ms. Williams. I kept thinking Thank you, would come, but I never saw it either. That's pretty bad. Those people really did so much to accomodate her and she seemed matter of fact about it. Last season everyone showed their appreication. I hope the remainder of this season is like that.
    I thought it was pretty glaring. I would have noticed it if the celebs from last season hadn't shown any gratitude because I'm a bit obsessive about manners.

    Sunday night, they aired Lisa Kudrow's episode from last season and WOW, it was still incredible. Her family in Belarus experienced something similar to what my family in Poland dealt with: Nazis came into the town, lined everyone up and killed them (in my family's case, because they were Polish). My great great grandparents had emigrated years before, but there was family left in the town who were killed or taken to concentration camps. Lisa finding the relative that they all believed had died was so moving.

    I guess I don't look at this as a celebrity show because these stories could be ANYONE'S stories. It's not about the people being famous - it's about them being people and having a curiosity about where they came from. I can totally identify.

    I'm excited to see each story this season. I guess I just think people are interesting!
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

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    FORT Fogey Debb70's Avatar
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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    I agree Critical. Did you find your information yourself or with professional help?

    I watched every episode last season. I like Lisa Kudrow's story and also enjoyed Susan Sarandan, Brooke Shields and the former football hero, I think it was Emit Smith.

    My father is really into geneology. I would love for he and I to take about 2 weeks to travel and trace our tree whereever it leads. He has done quite a bit on his own. So far, all of our family seems to have come from Virginia and NC. We have even found a Civil War officer. Looking at all the names, it appears they are English and Irish.

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    Re: Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC)

    Quote Originally Posted by Debb70;4186767;
    I agree Critical. Did you find your information yourself or with professional help?

    I watched every episode last season. I like Lisa Kudrow's story and also enjoyed Susan Sarandan, Brooke Shields and the former football hero, I think it was Emit Smith.

    My father is really into geneology. I would love for he and I to take about 2 weeks to travel and trace our tree whereever it leads. He has done quite a bit on his own. So far, all of our family seems to have come from Virginia and NC. We have even found a Civil War officer. Looking at all the names, it appears they are English and Irish.
    I did it all myself. It's JMHO, but having a professional do it is sort of like cheating to me. That's cool if you have the money, but you're not actually researching your family tree - someone else is. In some family lines, I've gotten back to the 14th century. With others I'm stuck in the 1870's. It's like a big jigsaw puzzle that you never finish - more and more pieces get added! I have a friend who says she loves working on her family tree with her kids but, in actuality, they paid a genealogist to do it all. I can imagine - especially with a few lines I have trouble with - hiring someone to find a record/birth certificate/etc., but I like the hunt. Finding one obit that links you into a line that takes you back hundreds of years is totally worth the headaches and frustration!

    Lately, I just haven't taken the time to work on anything, but I keep promising myself that I'll get back into it. There used to be TONS of genealogy websites out there for free. Now they seem to have all been swallowed up by Family Tree Maker/Ancestry.com. You get to a certain point on the free sites and, invariably, you get directed to Ancestry.com. It's really frustrating, since my budget doesn't allow for that expense right now.

    I've got Civil War soldiers on both sides of my family, including two great great grandfathers. I have copies of their service records. It's incredible how much info they have retained, considering they didn't have computers. Much of what I have is handwritten, although some is typed. Those records are well worth the expense!

    So, this week's episode is Tim McGraw, who didn't know his father was Tug McGraw for many years. I know that's important to him, personally, but I hope the show focuses less on that than on going further back in his family tree. I don't want it to be like a very special episode of Entertainment Tonight.
    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' - Isaac Asimov

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "... I drank what?"

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