Who Do You Think You Are? Rosie O’Donnell and Kim Cattrall

We are now four episodes into Season 2 of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA)? The genealogy-based show is seen on Friday evenings on NBC in the United States and Canada as well as the City-TV network in Canada.

The ratings thus far have been okay – good enough in fact that NBC has already renewed the show for a third season. WDYTYA has not won it’s time slot yet this season but it has held a steady and consistently solid second place even though the number of viewers has dropped off since the season premier episode featuring Vanessa Williams attracted 7.32 million viewers. The second episode featuring country singer and actor Tim McGraw drew 6.6 million while Rosie O’Donnell drew only 5.88 million. Kim Cattrall’s episode that aired on Feb 25th drew marginally more at 6.15 million.

The drop in viewers is obviously not worrying to NBC who has shown confidence in the show’s concept and production. There are a number of possible reasons for the viewing numbers to fluctuate. Numbers can be up, or for that matter down, depending on the attraction of competing shows and specials in the time slot. I suspect that the Rosie O’Donnell episode viewing numbers were down simply because some people don’t like her political views or lifestyle preferences. They weren’t going to watch because it was Rosie and they just don’t watch Rosie, in principle. Similarly, there may have been some who chose not to watch the Kim Cattrall episode because there was no U.S. connection. It was an episode about a woman who was born in England and raised in Canada.

Irrespective of the reasons, if television’s first obligation is to entertain then WDYTYA succeeded with both Rosie and Kim.

Here are some general comments and observations concerning the episodes:

  • Rosie’s episode gave a good overview of the research techniques and varieties of records that are often used in the pursuit of family history
  • Rosie’s episode also gave a stirring and emotional overview of the plight of the Irish who struggled through the famine of the mid-19th century. Like Rosie’s ancestors, my maternal line ancestors also were affected and escaped the famine through immigration to Canada
  • Kim Cattrall’s episode, essentially a re-edited version of the BBC WDYTYA Cattrall episode, demonstrated the challenges of searching for information on ancestors whose records are not yet readily available to us. We are compelled to seek out newspaper stories or the living, whether family, friends, neighbours or acquaintances to find clues about family events.
  • Much has been noted about Kim Cattrall’s search of an Ancestry.com family tree. Well, the tree does exist. I found it shortly after the program aired by searching Ancestry’s Public Member Trees for Kim’s grandfather George Baugh, married in 1939 in England, and died in 1974 in Australia. I even mentioned this find in the GeneaBloggers Radio Show chat room Friday evening. Unfortunately, on checking for the family tree on Saturday, February 26th, I was able to find the tree listed but access was denied by Ancestry! Why Ancestry would deny access to a public member tree I do not understand but that is perhaps a subject for a different dialogue.
  • Both episodes demonstrated that not all genealogy finds lead to ‘happy dances’ but sometimes might be very uncomfortable and emotionally stressful for family members.

With a few more episodes to be shown this season and a third season to be produced, there is much to look forward to as the product continues to improve. If the show’s producers are running out of subjects willing to participate, I will happily put my name forward and allow a highly qualified team of researchers to help me deepen my roots.

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