Case Number 23758: Small Claims Court


Acorn Media // 2010 // 335 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // May 1st, 2012

The Charge

Stars trace their family roots through history.

The Case

A few years ago, Lisa Kudrow happened across a British show that followed the genealogies of various famous people. She was so struck by the idea she decided to create an American version, and Who Do You Think You Are? was born. The concept is simple: celebrities talk to historians and genealogy experts to trace parts of their family trees, discovering stories of ancestors they never knew existed.

The famous people participating in Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 include...

Disc 1
* "Vanessa Williams" -- Vanessa follows the trail of both of her great-grandfathers, finding they had different beginnings but ended up on very similar paths.
* "Tim McGraw" -- At the age of eleven, Tim discovered the man he always thought of as dad was an imposter; his real father was a professional baseball player named Tug McGraw. Since he knows little about his real family, Tim starts digging into his past.
* "Rosie O'Donnell" -- Rosie believes she might have Irish roots (ya think?) and goes looking for them.
* "Kim Cattrall" -- Kim already knows her genealogy several generations back, so she uses this opportunity to trace the path of her grandfather, who abruptly left his wife and three kids one day and was never heard from again.

Disc 2
* "Lionel Richie" -- Lionel's grandmother never liked to talk about her father, so Lionel tries to track down information about him.
* "Steve Buscemi" -- Steve follows the path of an ancestor who was apparently someone's only eleven years old.
* "Gwyneth Paltrow" -- Gwyneth was told her grandmother came from a Caribbean island, so she sets off to see if that's true.
* "Ashley Judd" -- Ashley's family has been in Kentucky for ages, but there's a rumor they have even deeper roots in New England.

While the experts do all of the serious digging, the celebrities show up and talk about the findings. Sometimes they'll pretend they did some (or most) of the research themselves, but then an expert will pull out a book and say, "Here's something else we found," and turn to exactly the right page. In case you want to try this yourself, know that most libraries do, indeed, staff a genealogist or historian who can point you in the right direction, but they aren't likely to do the work for you.

While the stories are often interesting, they're not so engaging you're likely to remember much about them a week later. Part of that is because, unless you're a really big fan, none of these stories hold much emotional value for anyone not related to the people being profiled. The other problem is the producers often try to find a theme for the search that always sounds tagged on. "I'd be really interested to know how much a role faith played in [my ancestors'] lives," says Ashley. "My own faith is really important to me." Well, whattya know? Her family came from Puritan stock.

Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the visuals are clean of debris and grain, carrying a well-balanced and reasonably deep color palette. The Dolby 2.0 stereo is what you'd expect -- that is, center-heavy -- but everyone is easy enough to understand. There are no extras, which is a bit of a shame. You'd think a production like this would have a large repository of "find your own family" information. I guess they feel their incessant product placement nods to are enough.

Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2 is a pleasant enough way to spend an evening, and watching it will probably get you thinking about looking up your own ancestors. Just realize such a journey will not be nearly as easy as this show makes it look.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2012 Josh Rode; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile
Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English (SDH)

Running Time: 335 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Official Site