Who Do You Think You Are: Season 2

I remember when Who Do You Think You Are first began to promote itself on television. The first thing that I thought was, “Why would I care about some celebrities family tree?” I never ran across the show again until now when I watched the complete second season on DVD for review. While some of it was interesting I couldn’t help but feel like the show was a bit controlled and some of the celebrities a bit unnerving on how they went about discovering the depths of their family line.

The first episode features Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty, Hoodlum) as she delves into her family history. Well, she doesn’t really do anything but travel and allow someone else to do the leg work. I found it a bit grating that the results always went in the same direction, generalizing the African American celebrities results down to slavery. I get it, slavery is an inevitable run in when looking into the past of American lives weather your white or black but for Vanessa Williams it was pretty much all about how her ancestor endured slavery. Williams came off pretty plastic about it, at least that’s what I thought. Later we have a look into Lionel Richie’s ancestry line and even though it does involve a slavery theme Richie at least does some of the leg work and the investigation reveals a lot more substance. Still, at the end of both episodes I couldn’t wrap my head around why it would even matter to me to learn about a couple of celebrity family tree’s, even with Richie’s  segment being pretty informative. It didn’t feel like these people were really into looking at their family heritage but simply featuring on the show. Lump Tim McGraw and Gwyneth Paltrow in that bunch as well. I couldn’t help but think, “These people are actors. How much of this really means anything to them?” Really the only one who really had my interest was Steve Buscemi because he did all of the leg work, researching, asking questions, tracking down and meeting leads. I’ve always often wondered about Buscemi’s heritage anyway so this was an interesting episode that was extremely informative and told an actual story. The only other episodes that did that were Richie’s and Ashley Judd’s. Everyone else’s seemed a bit glossed over.

So what do I mean when I say controlled? Well with each episode there seemed to be a theme. Vanessa William’s theme was slavery, Tim McGraw’s was America and music, Rosie O’Donnell’s was about her Irish heritage, Kim Cattrall’s was about strong women, so on and so forth. While people did get a bit of bad news everything always seemed to work out in the end. No really scandalous embarrassing moments, nothing too depth worthy, and almost everyone put on a show. For example, Kim Cattrall’s segment was about her great grandfather (or something to that effect) who had left behind his children and refused to be photographed. The entire episode features nothing but women, no men speak in this episode. Considering the theme of the episode and the outcome it all seemed very perfectly organized to fit the theme. McGraw being a Cowboy/country singer finds out that his ancestors quite literally lived the American dream and that their history is loosely tied with some pretty famous musical blood. Really? That all seems to be coincidentally on queue with McGraw’s country music image.

There was a bit to like about this show but also a lot to be skeptical about. It all seemed like a big advert for Ancestory.com and I just couldn’t connect with these celebrities who got weepy eyed about some ancestor they never met who they sympathized with for their plight. To me that makes no sense. I might have given a “That sucks” but I don’t think I could shed a tear for someone I never met or feel the pain of their having lost a wife or fortune. That just doesn’t effect me, therefore this show is obviously not for me. As always final judgment is yours.

AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
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