“Who Do You Think You Are?” is first and foremost a TV show, and thus it requires the presence of stars and a story arc punctuated with dramatic moments, and it has all those things.
But the series, which premieres at 8 p.m. ET Friday (March 5) on NBC, doesn’t necessarily need all those things. In tracing their own roots, the celebrities who take part in the show get to tell larger American stories, and that’s pretty cool even without voiceover narration and music cues.
“Who Do You Think You Are?” is executive produced by “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow (who will be the subject of the March 19 episode) and based on a British series of the same name. Friday’s premiere features “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker, who had assumed that she was primarily of German descent and that her family had only been in the United States since the mid-19th century.
She discovers, though, that there’s a lot more to it than that — tracing her roots all the way back to colonial Massachusetts.
The second episode is devoted to NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, who delves into the history of slavery in America while tracing his roots.
“Who Do You Think You Are?” premieres on the heels of a similar PBS series called “Faces of America,” in which Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. helps the likes of Eva Longoria Parker, Meryl Streep and Stephen Colbert trace their history. It does so without some of the more conventional TV trappings of “Who Do You Think,” and whether you prefer one over the other is probably going to come down to a matter of taste.
What they both succeed in doing, though, is using the famous people involved to help tell bigger stories. And that makes for a pretty worthwhile hour of TV.
Photo credit: NBC