I saw an ad for NBC's new show, Who Do You Think You Are?, and I felt like I had seen it before, when I realized I had seen it the other night on subway advertising for a new PBS series, Faces of America. They both sit down celebrities and trace back their family trees. Same exact show. You often see TV networks premiere dueling doctor shows or dueling cop shows, but with distinct plots or locations or whatnots. These two new shows both take celebrities and find out who their ancestors were, which is something we all can relate to on some level. I know I want to know more about where my family came from — did you know that I'm allegedly the direct descendant of a very very famous king of Ireland? I'll give you a hint. If you think I'm full of blarney, well, I very well may be.
Anyhow. Enough about me, as they say.
The PBS version which kicks off Wednesday is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., so it has the gravitas of a man who prompted the President of the United States to host a beer summit. And Gates sits down with people like Malcolm Gladwell, so I look forward to the part when Gates explains that Gladwell's grandmother drank past her "tipping point" and decided to have sex with his grandfather in the "blink" of an eye, except that will never happen on a show produced for PBS. He did sit down with Stephen Colbert, however, and the clips from the second week's episode online reveal that Colbert is downright sincere in talking about his family tree, down to pronouncing the "T" in Colbert. Here Colbert talks about why we all want to know where our families came from:
This other clip appealed to the Irish part of my being:
Among the others getting profiled by PBS is director Mike Nichols.
As for NBC, its series starts March 5, and Lisa Kudrow is not only an executive producer, but also a participant in the program. Here's an extended clip showing the various celebs — Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Matthew Broderick, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, Emmitt Smith, and Kudrow herself: