I have waited to write about the new TV program, "Who Do You Think You Are?, because, quite frankly, the first episode did not impress me much at all. I realized immediately from reading the blizzard of blog posts on the show, that I was in a decided minority. It seemed like there was almost universal acclaim. First of all, I don't like TV much at all. Secondly, I hate commercials. I was put off with the hyper-commercialization of the show and the cavalier way it treated genealogical research. Quite frankly, I do not identify with people who have enough money to jump on a plane and fly around the country doing "research." This is especially true, when I know that most of the records could be found in a few select locations.
Fortunately, I came back for more and all that said, I really liked the second show. Emmitt Smith was much more sympathetic and believable than Sarah Jessica Parker, probably because he wasn't a "professional" actor. Unfortunately, looking ahead to the line up of featured guests, they are almost, with only one exception, all professional actors and actresses. Some of the commentary on the show has brushed aside the commercialism and acting and touted the benefits of the exposure of genealogy to the masses. If the rest of the shows live up to the episode staring Emmitt Smith, I would have to agree, they would all be worth watching. But it appears that he may be the only light in a dreary season of over acting.
I certainly hope that my suspicions are not correct. I will watch the next episode to see what happens. I do think it is great that real genealogists make appearances on the show. I think it is possible that someone might get the idea that genealogy had other than a marginal place in our society, but I have also been on duty at the Mesa Regional Family History Center when people have walked in and asked to see "their genealogy," thinking that all they had to do was show up and ask. For me as a long time practicing attorney, I always think of the movies and TV shows about lawyers and courts and how much damage they do to our profession. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to correct impressions clients have formed of the law from watching TV. I am afraid that popularizing genealogy on TV will have much the same effect.
Let's hope that the results of exposing the world to real genealogists will have a salutary rather than a dilatory effect on genuine research.