The genealogy-reality series we’ve all been waiting for, “Who Do You Think You Are?” (WDYTYA), will help plug the gaps in NBC’s prime-time lineup after the poorly performing “Jay Leno Show” ends Feb. 12.
The new series premieres Friday, March 5, from 8 to 9 p.m. ET (the Winter Olympics airs Feb. 12 to 29).
According to NBC’s announcement, WDYTYA will conclude by April 30, when “Friday Night Lights” returns early to take the spot.
WDYTYA is an adaption of the hit British show of the same name. NBC’s version will feature actors Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon and Brooke Shields, producer Spike Lee, and football legend Emmitt Smith.
I got a chance to see a trailer last week while visiting Ancestry.com—which has a big stake as a partner in the series—and it looks like it could be good: poignant, suspenseful, historical, and filled with lovely scenery from the US and abroad.
There’s also celebrity appeal (though it’d be nice and perhaps even more powerful and surprising to see how average Joes off the street have great stories in their pasts).
Many professional genealogists had a hand in the series. At last Saturday’s Ancestry.com-sponsored dinner, speaker and New England Historic and Genealogical Society researcher Josh Taylor recounted portions of his on-screen conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker (she later named her new twin girls after ancestors). Ancestry.com chief genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak has written a how-to book based in part on her WDYTYA work. A companion website will reveal more behind-the-scenes genealogical research.
Will the show be a success? For NBC to consider more episodes, it’ll have to attract viewers who aren’t already into family history and history in general. Many genealogists are hoping that’ll translate into a tree-tracing mania similar to the one after the “Roots” miniseries aired in 1977.
Some, I think, also look forward to the popular validation that genealogy is a perfectly acceptable and interesting way to pass time.