Who Do You Think You Are?
is a series on The BBC
where (mostly British) celebrities investigate their family trees. Some celebrities find some very interesting relatives — including royalty. The series debuted in 2004 and is still ongoing.
The definition of "celebrity" is a little loose and often includes any old BBC presenter with a familiar face and a few weeks to spare, but this is not important as it seems almost anyone has a few fascinating stories in their family tree.
Celebrities on the BBC version have been:
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- Bruce Forsyth
- Rupert Everett
- Dervla Kirwan
- Monty Don
- Rupert Penry-Jones
- Alexander Armstrong
- Jason Donovan
- Hugh Quarshie
- Alan Cumming
- Una Stubbs
- Nigel Havers
- Minnie Driver
- Lesley Sharp
- Gary Lineker
- Nick Hewer
- Nitin Ganatra
- Sarah Millican
- Marianne Faithful
- John Simpson
Series Eleven (aired so far)
Other versions of the show have been made for American, Australian, Irish, Canadian and South African television. The American version, produced by Lisa Kudrow
, featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Emmitt Smith, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee and Kudrow herself.
Has nothing to do with "Who the hell do you think we are?
Contains examples of:
- Blue Blood: A surprisingly high number of celebrities turn out to have this somewhere in their background. Amongst others chat show host Ryan Tubridy turned out to be descended from Edward III of England.
- Given the philoprogenitive qualities of Edward and his offspring today it's more a matter of who isn't descended from him!
- The ultimate example: Sir Matthew Pinsent (knighted for Olympic prowess) turns out to be descended from God. (By extension, so is everyone else who can trace their tree back to Edward the Confessor, but it's Pinsent they show actual proof to.)
- And comedian Alexander Armstrong manages to trace his family line all the way back to William the Conqueror.
- Follow the Leader / Dueling Shows: ITV's You Don't Know You're Born. As Harry Hill put it:
- Later ITV combined this with a look at Victorian institutions in Tales from the Workhouse, Tales from the Clink and Tales from the Workhouse.
- Foreign Remake: In many countries, as noted above.
- Shown Their Work: Little is dumbed down, and even the maps take historical border changes into account (a common mistake in documentaries).
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Yes, BBC, the upbeat sounds of "Young Folks" by Peter, Bjorn and John are an excellent choice for most of your trailers for this series. No, BBC, you should not play it over footage of anyone - even Jerry Springer - walking around a former concentration camp, weeping. The effect is most disquieting.
- Tearjerker: Almost every celebrity has at least one ancestor who has an incredibly tragic life... and the celebrities frequently end up crying.
- And a significant number of them have relatives who witnessed, fled from, or died in the Holocaust. Once lampshaded by Chris Moyles, who took a lot of flak for it.