Who Do You Think You Are? TV Review

The burning question for Who Do You Think You Are?, the latest show to jump the pond, is going to be how the ratings stack up from week to week. Which is to say, are people going to remain interested no matter who the celebrity of the week is? Or, I suppose, will the new viewers who are interested in Emmitt Smith make up for the ones who were only interested in Sarah Jessica Parker?

Perhaps another spin on such a question is, do those in the prime target audience know who Lisa Kudrow is? What is the target anyway? Can we get those who otherwise wouldn’t be on board for a genealogy show to watch because we have Matthew Broderick or Spike Lee? Is the Spike Lee viewer going to watch Brooke Shields?

It’s a tricky show.

But, as you’ll discover if you tune in this Friday at 8/7c, it really shouldn’t be. There is a kind of interest behind things because you’ll be watching Sarah Jessica Parker’s personal journey, but by the time you’re halfway through, it doesn’t matter much who is on the journey. It only matters that you get to watch the journey.

When next Friday rolls around, it won’t matter if you’re a football fan, even if seeing Emmitt Smith is going to draw its own crowd. And, while there are notes of interest each week, it doesn’t really seem to matter who finds out what. Some of these people may find unknown relatives, while others discover connections to important historic events, but the fascination isn’t a result of what is found, but the fact that everyone finds something.

Of course, it makes it a lot easier to sell the show when I tell you that Sarah Jessica Parker finds herself intimately connected to key moments in U.S. history, and yes, there is much in the build up just in getting the chance to see celebrities in these most human of experiences, but the power in the viewing still turns out to be just following the journey. Maybe my ancestors weren’t… well, wherever, because I won’t spoil it and tell you where hers were… in 1850, but they were somewhere. It may be that celebrities are the only hook big enough to get you to watch, but as you do you’ll realize that it isn’t Susan Sarandon that’s making this interesting. It’s that you’re in there somewhere too.

Going back a pace, I will tell you that Sarah sets out after meeting with her mom in hopes of getting a starting point. She follows what little she has to go on, and it takes her from one side of the country to the other. Exploring traces here and there, she learns a lot about where she came from, and finds that she is far more intricately tied to America than she ever believed. Beyond just the personal interest, the trip takes us to historians, librarians, record offices, and the places her family lived, and seeing how the pieces come together is also a good part of the fun.

The show is crafted for intimacy, and delivers a fun, accessible spin on not only tracing your roots, but history in general, and my recommendation is that you give the show a chance, even if you don’t foresee a lot of interest. I have a feeling you’ll be surprised. Check out some preview clips from the upcoming weeks below.

What’s to Come

The past can never be repeated, but it can be uncovered. See what’s to come on this season of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Lisa Kudrow Preview

Lisa learns a disturbing truth from her father about what happened to their family during WW2.

Emmitt Smith’s date with destiny

Emmitt finally finds the documents of a slave girl he’s been looking for and realizes he may have been destined to do so.

Seeking Susan

Susan Sarandon tries to uncover the two biggest mysteries of her family.


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Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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