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Photo: ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’
‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is a series where celebrities explore their own history through the help of the organization Ancestry.com. This business employs the aid of learned scholars and historians, who are versed in smaller, more particular periods in history. This includes occurrences that date back to somewhat recent times in the past, mostly concerning the last two or three centuries of humankind’s reign. This series is built essentially from a few specific questions of an individual who is the focus of any given episode.
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It is incredible how the series is able to create an entire story based on a single question, which then branches out into a multitude of curiosities. The relevance of this series is paramount to the period that humanity now exists within. This series, which is foremost about the past and heritage that has led to the creation of a person, is now combined with the miracle of technology and its close tie to convenient access to information. Never before in time have humans had such a profound integration with information and technology. This assimilation is what has led to the current existence and unbelievable wealth of knowledge that the series ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ utilizes. ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is revolutionary as it offers the guest star, who is the focus of the episode, the chance to learn more about their family’s history than they ever could have imagined.
‘Who Do You Think You Are?’: The Return of the Series to NBC
‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is a series that has now returned from a four-year hiatus. This series, which originally aired in 2010, ran for three seasons on NBC before being canceled in 2012. It was then picked up by TLC, where it continued for another seven seasons. The show’s creator Dan Bucatinsky elaborates on why the show has now returned for a 12th season by stating in an interview, “There has been a growing interest in genealogy. Interestingly enough, there was a huge boom back when we first premiered on NBC [in 2010], a huge interest in genealogy and Ancestry.com, and it continues to be a huge area of interest and a huge business.” Bucatinsky is accurate in his assessment of the growing interest of society in their own heritage and the legacy from which they come.
The depths of exploration the experts in this series go through to discover everything they can about the individual that is featured in the series is completely unbelievable. Every piece of history pertaining to the ancestry of the guest star is scoured in order to inform the featured celebrity about their heritage. This is an aspect of the show that is one of its greatest strengths, and the way that such information is shared is as skillfully delivered as it is accurate. ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is a series that has clearly learned from its time on air, and the newest season, which is just starting to release, utilizes not only a vast bank of knowledge, but also reflects a clear direction that the show is headed.
The Exploration of One’s Past Ancestors’ History
This show is fundamentally aimed at informing not only the guest, whose history a particular episode covers, but the audience of the series as well. The goal of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ is to surprise both the viewer and the star. There are aspects of human’s lives that are so heavily influenced by their heritage and yet many people have been unable to understand or meet the very ancestors they come from. This unfortunate side of life is heavily intertwined with the mortality of humanity. Recently, with the advent of technology and information, people are now able to discover facts and details about their genealogy that might have been impossible to find in earlier times.
This growth of access to information is what has led to the creation of the series ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and is what finally allows humans to trace back their lineage to as far as three centuries ago. Dan Bucatinksy highlights the importance and significance of being able to understand where one comes from with the words, “When you are able to walk in the footsteps of your ancestors and realize the ways in which those things also happened throughout history and they impacted the families and the births and the marriages and the childbearing and the moves, it’s quite remarkable how it gives us a context and it gives us a way of thinking about how we move through our lives in the present day.”
Understanding one’s history, in a way, gives clarity to who the individual is, and that is exactly the value and insight that the series ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ provides to its guests and viewers.
Overall Critique and Analysis
‘Who Do You Think You Are,’ in its 12th season, appears certain in the message that it attempts to illustrate. That message is that humans are not quite as enigmatic as they might first appear. The understanding that ancestral history provides about an individual is quite revealing towards not only the character of that person, but also the environment that shaped their future long before they were even born. This is something that is clearly depicted in the first episode of season 12 with guest star Billy Porter. Porter who is a Tony Award winner, singer, writer, and actor is able, through the show’s assistance, to uncover the turbulent history of his past family ancestors.
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His grandfather was murdered in cold blood by a police officer, a crime which was left unpunished as the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing despite witnesses. Porter also learns in that same episode that his great-great-grandfather purchased his family’s freedom in the mid-1800s from savings he made as a barber. Porter, after learning the adversities and horrors that his family was forced to endure, broke down into tears. This reaction by Porter reflects the true nature of his character, as well as the effect of the knowledge of learning one’s family history and what that does to an individual. Human lives are affected by a multitude of factors, but upon learning how those events have shaped one’s life, it is almost as if this knowledge allows the individual to better understand themself. This is the power of the series ‘Who Do You Think You Are,’ and although at times certain reactions within the show feel performance-based, the idea behind the series is what gives the show its true value.
By Thomas Jacobs
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Thomas Jacobs is an avid writer, Cinema aficionado, and filmmaker. He graduated with Dean’s Honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a major in Film and Digital Media. His passion is directly tied to the appreciation and creation of film and television, and this fact is reflected in his intent to be a writer for the acclaimed entertainment journal, The Hollywood Insider. His beliefs mirror the core goals and mission statement of The Hollywood Insider by sharing an admiration for quality entertainment as well as bolstering a sense of positivity and equality among all humans. Thomas believes that Cinema is an advantageous promoter of civil and social empowerment, and he shares a mutual societal view with The Hollywood Insider, that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.