Well known faces within the British media each embark on individual journeys to answer some questions in regards to their own family history. An interesting and intelligent programme for ...
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Australian celebrities play detective as they go in search of their family history, revealing secrets from the past. Travel around Australia and the world with Jack Thompson, Kate Ceberano,... See full summary »
Harvard educator Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts this enlightening PBS series that examines "the DNA of American culture" through an extensive discovery of the ancestors of today's celebrities.... See full summary »
Henry Louis Gates,
Well known faces within the British media each embark on individual journeys to answer some questions in regards to their own family history. An interesting and intelligent programme for any budding genealogists out there! Written by
the_mushroom_auditorium updated by garryq
The opening titles for each season show all the participants for that season, each in front of objects or buildings which are relevant to their story. The order of the participants changes from one episode to the next, with the subject of the episode always being the final one in the sequence. See more »
A massive television achievement - compelling and informative fare that should (at the very least) be compulsory family watching
We always knew that history was as much about ordinary people as about "the great and good", and the increased accessibility of British genealogical records has come to mean that everyone can check (and can afford to check) their family history in hours or days now, as opposed to the months or years it used to take. Genealogists of this new, far-wider category will be intimately aware how - as we go forward towards the middle of the 21st century, we are also - every last one of us - able to delve back in time to "create new history" - a particularly paradoxical and stunning reality of our times. A British format copied around the world (wherever records permit), "Who do you think you are?" has been both a product of the increased interest in genealogy and family history in the UK, and a major motor force behind the further development of this hobby-cum-obsession. Most people "want to know" - about who they are and where they came from, and the various celebrities that appear on the programme are mostly sufficiently interesting and sympathetic (in these most fundamental of circumstances at least) for us to care about their backgrounds. Indeed, it is virtually a rule that the family-history context portrays just about everybody in a positive/sympathetic light (even certain celebs one might otherwise have reservations about). We can't help our ancestors, we have to take the rough with the smooth, but we are a living part of that past heritage, while our ancestors are part of us - and in some ways this is a great leveller and a great conveyor of what it means to be human, and to feel human sympathy for somebody else. Hence emotion is never far below the surface in episodes of "Who do you think you are?", and this is a powerful incentive encouraging us to watch on. At the same time, we are given bite-size, but extremely helpful, incisive and skilfully abbreviated aspects of British (and therefore often also world) history, which makes cumulative watching of the series a vastly educational and also enfranchising experience, without it ever assuming a hectoring or lecturing or patronising tone. A great plus in this respect is the simultaneously warm and authoritative tone adopted by programme narrators David Morrissey, Mark Strong and Cherie Lunghi. While the featured celebrities do quite a lot of the talking/presenting themselves - alongside a vast pantheon of invited/consulted experts from every conceivable field, the very significant contribution to the overall product that the narrators make is not to be denied, and the potential educational impact of the programme is virtually limitless. This reflects the fact that it is mostly the history of society and of ordinary people that is highlighted - albeit firmly in the context of national or global trends and world events. Which shapes which is an interesting philosophical question, extremely well explored in what are now (as of 2015) no fewer than 12 series of this magnificent programme. Somewhere down the line, there is also a gently patriotic thread in there - but done with huge subtlety, indeed perhaps purely spontaneously, given that the United Kingdom HAS kept (most of) its people (and many incomers) safe for centuries, and HAS given them at least some chances to better themselves, as the series cannot help but show. There is no obvious reason why this format should ever run out of steam, given the fact that people and their background cannot fail to interest us as human beings, and given that there will always be new stories from history to be uncovered and told, as ostensibly dry documents are brought to vibrant life as stories from history in what is a synergistic and powerful combination of celebrities, talking heads, narrators, beautiful and often stunning or poignant visual images and sensitive music. There is a seamless whole here that is something rather unique in TV history. It would be so easy to distort or unbalance it, but so far the makers have managed to avoid that - and every possible credit to them for the landmark achievement.
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