Saturday, February 5, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 Episode 1 - My Thoughts

Last night, the premiere episode of Season 2 of  Who Do You Think You Are? aired on NBC here in Chicago at 7:00 PM CST (after which I conducted a two-hour radio show. More about that in a bit!). The episode starred Vanessa Williams and the audience followed along as she traced her ancestors from New York to Tennessee and other parts of the United States.
  • PLUS: I was so happy to see that NBC and the producers listened to the genealogical community (at least I hope so) and removed the inane recaps after the show returned from a commercial.  My big complaint last season for WDYTYA was that you could come in at the last 20 minutes and understand everything that was going on.  Also, it seemed to reduce a one-hour show to less than 30 minutes of actually viewing time.
  • MINUS: the "coming ups" are still there but they seemed less annoying and less noticeable.  Perhaps I watch too much PBS and other television with little or no commercials and thus I am spoiled.
  • PLUS: I greatly appreciated the overall "tone" of the episode in terms of being serious about genealogy and family history research. Perhaps it was Williams using a notebook and taking notes. But there was less of that "poof" here are your records and here is your family tree.  It appeared more realistic and you could actually sense the excitement when discoveries were made. Let's hope this seriousness carries through to all the episodes.
  • MINUS: Williams sat down to do a search on and BAM! she found what she wanted.  I wished they had prefaced that with some realistic information - this doesn't have to detract from the databases but more serious genealogists know that it takes time, effort and good search skills to find what is needed.  
  • PLUS: The stories of Williams' ancestors were engaging and I appreciate the fact that they selected an African-American woman to start off the series during Black History Month. I also greatly appreciate the Civil War tie-ins since the American Civil War will be at the forefront of US genealogy for the next five years due to the 150th anniversary of that conflict.
  • MINUS: During the media call about the episode (I participated in the call on January 24, 2011), Williams did say that some of what they discovered during the research was not depicted in the show due to time constraints. If there is such footage, it would be nice if NBC could post snippets at the WDYTYA website or perhaps incorporate it as a special feature in the DVD set of Season 2. 
    Overall, the hour seemed to just fly by and before I knew it, I had to get ready for my radio show! I was very impressed and, in my opinion, NBC hit it out of the ballpark with this episode of Who Do You Think You Are? While I realize you can't hit a home run each time a bat, let's hope that each of the remaining episodes is at least a hit.

    © 2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee


    Kerry Scott said...

    I haven't gotten to see it yet (it's on my DVR and we'll hopefully watch it tonight). I LOVE the idea of outtakes/extended scenes on the web though. NBC does a lot of that with some of its other shows...and if they didn't want them, Ancestry could have them. Traffic is good, right?

    Glad to hear they've spiffed it up a bit. I can't wait to watch it!

    Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

    Great review Thomas and I agree with all that you said.

    Russ said...


    Great review. Agree with the pluses and minuses.

    The two items what caught my eye, and you pointed out the notebook, where she took notes, but that she, like season one did two things.

    Started at "home". In this case a cemetery, and her visit to see her uncle, also staring at "home".

    But then she traveled to "where it took place". Was able to "see" where things took place. I can say, for the most part, "been there, done that". It helps pull together the 'stories' about the people involved.

    As it turns out, as we were watching the program, my wife actually worked with her father in Mew York.

    Your radio show was a real hoot. Will be looking for you comments there too.

    The Chat voted for YOU to be the star next year.

    Thank you for ALl that you do.


    Gyrobo said...

    This may sound a little odd, but I've been at the Rosendale Library researching the town's old railroad bridge, and I stumbled onto an 1872 Weekly Freeman article saying that James S. McEntee was present at the trestle's opening, and that he was the only person to have witnessed the opening of both the bridge and the canal. It wasn't in your post, so I thought I'd mention it.

    Lori said...

    I loved the show, Thomas. I can hardly wait for tonight's episode!