Monday, March 01, 2010

Finding Roots on Television

My previous post was about a new NBC show, "Parenthood", which reminded me of another new show about to debut on that much-maligned network on Friday, March 5. Every episode of "Who Do You Think You Are", a documentary series based on a British show of the same name, takes a different celebrity on a journey to find their roots and uncover unknown facts about their ancestors. Several international versions of this show have been produced in different countries, including in Israel.

I've been fascinated with the Israeli version, where every episode and every celebrity's story and reactions have been very different, even in cases when there were similar family histories (two stories included ancestors serving in the Hungarian Labor Battalions, and in all four episodes that have aired so far, the story of at least one side of the family involved the Holocaust). The episode with comedian Tal Friedman was laugh-out-loud funny, while other celebrities were more somber. Friedman retraced his mother's steps as a young child running across the French-Swiss border alone, only with an even younger boy by her side. Actor Ohad Knoler discovered that one of the scenes in "Munich", a film he appeared in, was filmed in a building designed by his own great-uncle and once owned by his family. Journalist Gabby Gazit discovered the horrible conditions both his parents lived through during the Holocaust. Writer Shifra Horn discovered she was descended from the Moroccan rabbi who re-awakened the Jewish community in Buchara, Uzbekistan. Each one of these celebrities discovered much more information about their families.

Two episodes are left. The promo for Thursday's episode promises actress and TV presenter Michal Yanay will discover a horrible secret. Then a week later, TV psychoanalyst Yoram Yuval, will explore his own roots as well.

The celebrities on the American version will be Lisa Kudrow, who also serves as producer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields and Emmitt Smith.

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