Monday, January 16, 2012

Predictions for Season Three of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

The celebrities for the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? have been announced.  NBC has a press release listing the celebrities and mentioned something I haven't seen in print before:  that helps produce the program. I don't know if that means they're coming clean or are now using it for marketing.

I was looking at the list of celebrities and started trying to figure out what we could anticipate this season in the way of research.  One of the first things I noticed is that they've lengthened the series significantly.  The first season had seven episodes, the second season had eight; this season has twelve celebrities.  So the program is obviously doing well with market share and advertisers.

Then I started breaking down the list of celebrities and comparing it to previous seasons.  The producers have established somewhat of a formula already.  In the first two seasons we had two episodes about black ancestry (Spike Lee and Emmitt Smith in season 1; Lionel Richie and Vanessa Williams in season 2), one about Jewish (Lisa Kudrow; Gwyneth Paltrow), and one about a scandal (Susan Sarandon; Kim Cattrall).  Then, more broadly, we visited other countries (Italy with Brooke Shields, Ireland with Rosie O'Donnell, and Barbados with Gwyneth Paltrow).  Those celebrities whose families had been in this country for several generations were connected with important historical events and people such as the American Civil War (Matthew Broderick, Steve Buscemi, Ashley Judd), the California Gold Rush (Sarah Jessica Parker), the Salem witch trials (Sarah Jessica Parker), the Pilgrims (Ashley Judd), and George Washington (Tim McGraw).

So looking at this year's list, our two episodes about black ancestry should be Jerome Bettis and Blair Underwood, and Jewish will probably be Rashida Jones, because her mother is Jewish.  Jones' father is black, but we've covered the black episodes already.  One of those three episodes should take us to Cameroon, according to the press release.  Helen Hunt had a Jewish grandmother, so they might have two episodes that touch on Jewish ancestry, but I think Jones will be the primary celebrity in that slot.

Without the research, there's no way to know who might have a scandal in the family.  It'll again be someone who has a strong personality and is willing to take on that kind of subject.  Rob Lowe has had his own scandals and managed to come through them fairly well, so he's my best guess.

In the press release the producers are quoted as saying that the new season will "take us to countries we haven't visited before."  Rita Wilson is half Bulgarian and half Greek, and the press release mentions Bulgaria, so that matches up.  Martin Sheen is half Irish and half Spanish; "Ireland's freedom fighters" were mentioned in the press release, and his mother is said to have IRA connections, so that should be part of his episode.  They couldn't find a good story in Spain?  His father is said to have come to the U.S. through Cuba, but they probably couldn't go there for the program.  Jason Sudeikis is Lithuanian on his father's side of the family, so that would be an interesting possibility for a new country to visit.  (Sudeikis' uncle is George Wendt [of Cheers fame], so they might try to work that into his episode.)

Marisa Tomei is Italian-American; Edie Falco has Italian and Swedish ancestry.  Along with her German Jewish grandmother, Helen Hunt had a grandfather who was born in England.  Their stories could possibly focus on ancestral countries or immigrant experiences, or maybe maybe historic events such as World War I.  Reba McEntire and Paula Deen's families, and Hunt's other lines, probably have been in the U.S. for many generations, so I expect their episodes to talk about how their ancestors were part of significant events in American history.

Well, those are my predictions.  We'll have to wait and see how accurate I am.  The new season begins Friday, February 3 at 8:00 p.m. on NBC.  Whether I'm right or wrong, I look forward to watching.


  1. Great post, as always. The episode about Rashida Jones is most likely going to be the one that takes us to Cameroon. I say this because her father, Quincy Jones, has Cameroonian DNA and was supposed to be on my recent trip to Cameroon via the Ancestry Reconnection Program. It wouldn't surprise me if "Who Do You Think You Are" superseded our trip by taking them on a trip of their own.

    For the southerners mentioned, I'm wondering if they will touch on whether or not their ancestors owned slaves or will they stay far away from that. To me, it would add a needed element to the show. Not only do people have ancestors who were slaves but they also have ancestors who owned slaves. What a thought?!? LOL

  2. Based on what you've said, it does make sense that Rashida Jones will be going to Cameroon, which could screw up my prediction of her episode dealing with Jewish ancestry. We'll have to see what happens with that.

    Paula Deen is the only Southerner in the list, and there is a dearth of personal information about her online, so I have no idea where her roots were. But something to keep in mind with Southerners is that they might not have always been Southern. That said, I don't expect NBC and Ancestry to be very controversial, because they don't want to alienate viewers and potential subscribers.

    Reba McEntire is from Oklahoma (which is not the South), and probably two generations before her, but people moved there from many places when the government opened up Indian land. Her roots could be Southern, Midwestern, or just about anything else. It doesn't seem likely she has American Indian heritage, or I would have expected that to be mentioned in the press release.

  3. I know the issue of slavery is painful for African Americans and an unfortunate part of this country's history. However, it's getting to be annoying when they find a descendant of slave-owners and put them on the spot to apologize for it. Their descendents had nothing to do with it and don't even know about it. My ancestors were poor and didn't own slaves, but I could have easily been a descendant of someone who did, as could anyone else.

    1. Agreed, because I'm black and the descendant of a slave-owner......a white one though.
      There were also blacks that owned other slaves for VARIOUS reasons, so no one should feel the need to apologize.

    2. Thank you for posting. I agree also, but it's unfortunate that such a topic is still considered easy fodder for the media.

  4. That's because programs like this look for sound bites, not in-depth information. We always need to keep in mind that this is primarily entertainment, not educational (unfortunately).


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