Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Who Do You Think You Are - no Brucie bonus

The first of the new series of Who Do You Think You Are was broadcast last night, featuring entertainer Bruce Forsyth. If you missed it, it is still accessible on the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days, and if you don't want to know the score, LOOK AWAY NOW!

I'll be honest and say that I thought it was a very average programme. Yes it is an entertainment programme these days, and not so much a genealogy show any more, but even so, I found it a bit drawn out, and to be blunt, fairly unremarkable. Don't get me wrong, genealogy is not often considered to be a spectator sport - our ancestors mean something more to us in most cases than they ever will to most onlookers, and I'm sure it was no different for Bruce Forsyth. But it was all a bit 'meh' really in the portrayal. The story not only felt like it had been previously researched, we were actually told in the opening moments that it had been - Bruce had received a letter suggesting his great grandfather was a bigamist. So it felt awfully contrived to make our way towards the reunion with the Americans 40 minutes in, when I'm guessing the letter writer was probably the main research consultant!

I have to add, there are only so many ways programme makers can create artificial environments just to contrive a look at a census record! People often comment that Who Do You Think You Are encourages people to get stuck in themselves into the world of genealogy. To a degree that may be true. But it also distorts the process, and makes it difficult watching at times for those who do actually research their ancestors, because at times it bears little resemblance to our own efforts.

But the fundamental thing for me is the point of the programme. I am not anti-WDYTYA, but I am usually fairly anti-cult of celebrity. In this programme, though, I felt that Bruce was one hundred per cent genuine in his desire to participate, not something I would level at all those who have taken part in the past. But whilst Bruce perhaps got what he wanted from the journey, as a viewer I just felt that I didn't get out of it the hour that I invested. I want to see what impact the discoveries make - what do the revelations mean to the person involved, and how had that changed them, if indeed it has? Ian Hyslop once stood on a Hebridean island in the pouring rain and knew there and then that he could close the book on the past - he was a happy city dweller, his gene pool had moved on, and he found little in common with that aspect of his ancestry! Fair enough - I know he came away with an understanding about himself from his experience - that to me is the true point of researching your family history (to know where you are going you need to know where you have been!). If the celebrity is important to latch a programme around, no problems, but I can't help feeling many others out there had much more powerful tales of bigamy that could have been told in a television format in a much more powerful way.

Not a disastrous programme by any means - just a bit long winded, and I suspect chosen to be the first in the run because Bruce is BBC royalty, rather than having the most powerful story.

Chris

www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk
Professional genealogical problem solving and research
http://twitter.com/ChrisMPaton
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

1 comment:

wanderinggenealogist said...

I totally agree with you, it really dragged on. I thought it was just me being impatient, so I am glad I am not the only one.