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, having featured over 130 celebrities.
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:
- Nicky Campbell
Adaptations of the show have been made in 17 other countries, including the USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Germany and Russia. The US version, produced by Lisa Kudrow, has itself aired 10 seasons, and has featured over 70 celebrities. Episodes of the UK series featuring Kim Cattrall, Minnie Driver and J.K. Rowling were edited and re-broadcast as part of the American version.
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 - however, given the philoprogenitive qualities of Edward and his offspring today it's more a matter of who isn't descended from him!
- Chat show host Ryan Tubridy turned out to be descended from Edward III of England.
- 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.)
- Comedian Alexander Armstrong manages to trace his family line back to William the Conqueror. As does Frank Gardner.
- Danny Dyer turned out to also be a descendant of Edward III. Funny given his usual persona.
- Boring, but Practical: When Lisa Kudrow finds out an old relative of hers may be alive, she asks the researcher if they could look through a current record like a voter registry to see if he is still alive. The researcher immediately produces a telephone directory.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Most people on the show tend to be highly sympathetic to their ancestors, who may or may not have been particularly sympathetic. The standout so far may be Anne Reid, who wished "horrible deaths" on the people who sentenced her ancestor to seven years of transportation... in spite of the fact that said ancestor was a notorious drunk and domestic abuser who had neglected his duties as a schoolteacher in favour of running a shady construction business and attempted to defraud his father-in-law by forging his signature.
- Foreign Remake: In many countries, as noted above.
- "Rediscovering Roots" Trip: A core premise. Each episode features a celebrity going on a journey to investigate parts of their family tree, generally including travel to sites of major significance in the life of one or more ancestors.
- 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.