WDYTYA Conference Call With Lisa Kudrow

Who Do You Think You Are?

This afternoon, I had a chance to participate in a conference call hosted by NBC/Universal with Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky (Executive Producer) of the Who Do You Think You Are? television series premiering on March 5, 2010. And I actually was able to speak with both Lisa and Dan! And without embarassing myself!

The call was open to mostly media contacts and journalists so that we could get more information about the show, the series, the production factors etc.

Before I get to my question, here are some interesting tidbits from the call:

  • The producers began with a list of approximately 75 potential celebrities
  • This list was whittled down to about 15 celebrities
  • Out of the 15 celebrities there was one scheduling conflict and the other seven did not produce stories compelling enough for television
  • The term “alternative reality” was used to describe the concept of television documentary as entertainment
  • While the BBC version of WDYTYA has 59 minutes without interruption, the US version has roughly 40 minutes with frequent breaks; in addition, a US television show has “breaks, recaps, and coming-ups” which can often detract from the documentary format

One of the most interesting comments during the call, in my opinion, was made early on by Lisa Kudrow when she was asked how it felt to be standing in the same places where her ancestors lived and where they died.  She stated that doing so, “doesn’t allow you to keep an emotional distance” so you are forced to process your feeling and emotions about that portion of family history.

As for my question: I told Lisa and Dan that the genealogy blogging community was so excited about WDYTYA that many of us might spontaneously combust before March 5th.  And then I asked if they believed that WDYTYA could be the Roots of the 21st century and have the same impact.  Both of them believed that this series could have that impact and Dan added that as he and others watched each episode, “it became addictive.”

Let’s hope that WDYTYA is addictive to a wide spectrum of television viewers in the US.  Genealogy and family history are happy addictions after all, right?

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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