It's Not For Us. It's For Them.
I've not hidden my feelings when it comes to NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? I absolutely love it. As a researcher I think it's a wonderful tool being used to reach out to the non-genealogy world and exposing them to family history research. And that is why I really don't like what critics of the show are saying. For one, they're never happy. In the first 2 seasons critics were SO concerned about the show showing too much story and not enough research. They wanted the celebrity to do some of the work, not the expert. And now? In the 3rd season, the celebrities are shown doing the work in the clips, and critics are crying out that they don't want to see the celebrities do the work. They're happy that more of the technical aspects are being shown instead of just the story.
And this is just 2 of the complaints of the critics, and I don't think the criticisms from the different seasons are coming from the same people. [At least I hope not. However, I've not been taking names.] One thing I do know is that they're coming from the online genealogy world. I realize that genealogists revel in the technical aspects of researching. After all, that's part of why we do what we do. However, WDYTYA? is not a show for researchers.
WDYTYA? is a show for researchers-to-be and for those who will never be researchers. Putting the Ancestry.com, NBC, and business aspects aside [and don't kid yourself, it's a business], it's a national, if not world, platform that exposes people to the idea of family history. And we, as researchers, can use it as a tool within our own families and communities to get people interested, but please don't think this show is for us and our detailed technical genealogical minds.
And what does the general public like to see? They like drama, scandal, and celebrities. In story form. My proof? Well for one [and I CANNOT believe I'm about to mention this celebrity family on my blog], the Keeping Up with the Kardashians. More proof? Ice Loves Coco, The Apprentice [celebrity version] and Kendra.
And let's not forget shows like Dancing with the Stars where there are mini dramas popping up with every episode.
But? The general public doesn't just love stories involving celebrities. They like the everyday Joe [or Jane] who is suddenly propelled in front of the camera sharing their story full of drama and scandal. Of course eventually some of them become celebrities because of their story and some even achieve cult status. And here's some of the shows on the lovely reality TV shows list:
And let's take a look at one of them as an example ~ American Chopper. Now, Senior and Paulie entertained me for years. Their bike shop reminded me of my Dad's truck and trailer mechanic's shop and paint & body shop. [And Senior reminded me of my Dad. Sort of.] Surprisingly, I know my way around a mechanic's shop and the aspects of running one. I'm also quite familiar with the technical terminology. However, when I watched the show, I didn't sit there and critique every minute detail of the show [and I could have]. Why? Because it was about the ongoing drama between Senior and his son Paulie who practically never agreed on anything. I'm sure bike chop shops around the country watched the show because of their passion for building bikes, and I'm very sure they had criticisms with certain details of the show. But guess what? The show wasn't for them and in a way it wasn't for me either. It was for those voyeurs out there [and the voyeur in me] who wanted to escape our own drama for a while and watch someone else's drama for a while. That's right. Escape our story and watch someone else's story. [For me, it was refreshing to see someone else working for their difficult father-boss.]
And? In the process, we *all* learned something about building a bike whether we wanted to or not because they dovetailed the technical into the story. Not all of it, mind you, just enough to move the story along. And I cannot and will never build a motorcycle. I can promise you that.
And we need to remember that when it comes to the show WDYTYA?. Yes, we need to watch and support it, but let's stop criticizing every detail of the show and embrace the fact that they're trying to tell a story [and the fact that our passion ~genealogy~ is being spotlighted on prime time TV.]. Stop quibbling over gloves or no gloves, too much story and not enough technical, let the celebrities do the work or don't let them do the work.
How about we just let them tell the story? The name of the show is Who Do You Think You Are?, right? Well, I'm not a tree nor a leaf with lines between me and my family members. I don't walk around with my vitals listed on my body. I'm a person with a family. And guess what? My family and I have a story to tell.
Remember: It's not for us. It's for them.
And here's a clip of a deleted scene [That's right. Not shown in last Friday night's episode.] where the research is dovetailed into the story perfectly. Well, both stories ~ Blair Underwood's story of finding his family and his own family's story. It's short, but very moving and revealing.
If unable to watch the video here, here's the link to it on NBC's site:
2/27/2012 10:10:30 am
Caroline, You are absolutely correct with this post! Thanks for saying it so well. I enjoy watching WDYTYA? not because I research but because the stories are interesting and for the most part moving.
2/27/2012 10:20:38 am
You hit the nail on the head. The last episode with Blair Underwood had me and my 16 y/o daughter in tears. We had taped it and we will watch it again. It is about who we are, where we came from, and we're we want to go.
2/27/2012 01:48:49 pm
2/27/2012 11:02:33 pm
I feel the same Caroline! What I like to think about is this show has been a way for my family to enjoy genealogy together without me overwhelming them with my exuberance for the subject. I watch the show with my parents and grandfather, and through watching the show, they ask me questions that interest them and I'm able to answer. Heck, my grandfather is asking about taking DNA testing now! I think that's a huge achievement for the show.
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