Monday, May 14, 2012


I'd been watching the declining ratings of Who Do You Think You Are? this
season with growing concern. I knew they were putting the future of the
series in doubt but I hoped that NBC would still renew it as a commitment
to better programming on their part. So I was dismayed to learn last
night that the network had cancelled it for the upcoming 2012-2o013.

Several opinions were offered as to why WDYTYA had not been renewed.
one was that the program failed to appeal to the coveted 18-49 years old
demographic. But if you look at the weekly ratings, it's CBS' shows'
that dominate the Top 20 and their demographics are considerably older.
If the 18-49's are more valued, why are ads on the CBS shows more
expensive and the network's income up?

Another theory is one that's been heard before, that perhaps the show
would do better if it had dealt with normal every day people instead of
celebrities. I don't know if the producers have that option. Remember,
it's based on the original BBC show and everyone of the other eleven
international versions(including NBC's) followed the same format as
the mother series, much in the same way programs such as "The Voice:
and "America's Got Talent" follow the same format as the original
British programs. I doubt that f they were allowed to change
who the show spotlighted that the show would have even lasted
a single season if it aired at all. Networks tend to like star power.

  Anyway, I emailed NBC to protest the cancellation.

"Dear NBC,
I am greatly disappointed in your decision to cancel Who Do You Think 
You Are? At a time when there are so many ridiculous so-called "reality 
shows",  you've chosen to drop the one show on your schedule that is 
not only educational but inspiring as well. The fact that such a quality 
program is to be replaced by the likes of Howie Mandel's "White Elephant" 
is especially disheartening.

There was a time when NBC was known for the quality of its prime time 
lineup. I'd hoped that "Who Do You Think You Are?" signaled a return to 
those days. Please reconsider this terrible decision and renew the program. 
If you do,  it would answer a question I now have about your network:

Who Do You Think Your Are, NBC: a quality network, or one now 
dedicated to  shows aimed at the lowest form of entertainment?

Bill West "

If you want to send your own comments to NBC about this, go to  . Be sure to select "Who Do
You Think You Are?" from the "Select Show" box in the middle of the
screen. Share that link with your friends who like the show as well
and encourage them to let NBC hear their opinion. It's a long
shot but maybe we can get them to bring it back.

Friday night for the past few years has been "Genealogy Night" for
many of us. I'm going to miss it.


Marian said...


I have to admit I stole the text of your letter! But I did go to the link you shared and sent it to NBC. Shame on them!


Susi's Quarter said...

Posted early afternoon here:

Dorene from Ohio said...

What sad news...

Ged said...

If you want to understand why the USA/NBC version has failed, whilst the UK, Ireland et al series go from strength to strength, then tune in and watch the superior BBC production techniques. I am a big fan of WDYTYA since its conception in Britain, but even I lost interest in the US version.

The original BBC shows focused on the research techniques so that every amateur family historian could get in on the act. They also gave equal airplay to celebrities whose ancestors never achieved any fame or notoriety. To me, it is just as interesting to learn IN DETAIL how a whole generation suffered with TB (for instance), rather than watch so-called celebs swoon about royal connections or heroic forefathers.

Another trick of the BBC shows was to start off with the family lore tales of mysterious ancestors who were shunned for unproven dastardly deeds, and then the researchers would uncover the truth. Just like real-life genealogy. Some of these ancestors would be forgiven for their acts when their full circumstances were understood. At the same time, other relatives would be shown to be heartless or snobbish for passing down tales of falsehoods.

The best shows revolved around the celeb guests getting heavily involved with a particular ancestor. Trying to understand his/her life, and being non-judgmental. When true emotions surfaced, as they often do in ancestry research, it was TV heaven. The problem with the US version is that you could sense that the celebs were being "asked" to get emotional for the sake of ratings. It was false, and so-o-o apparent. As a result, it backfired.

Another failing of the NBC shows was the infuriating interruption of spectacular discoveries by regular commercial breaks. Serious documentaries can do without ads for pizza every 10 minutes. The UK & Irish shows run for one hour or so without a break. In the USA, the narrator has to re-tell the story so far about 4 or 5 times - for the sake of the minority viewer just tuning in. This is infuriating and an insult to the dedicated fan, and anybody of moderate intelligence - particularly in the days of TV Pause & Playback.

Finally, there tends to be one big distinction between selected US celebs and their counterparts elsewhere. In the UK, the founding country of WDYTYA, genealogists might link a newsworthy historical story (sometimes mundane) to a celeb descendant, and then ask the celeb if he/she was willing to take part in a show. In the US, it seems like a celeb was chosen (and signed up?) in advance, and then the researchers would try their darn-est to find a distant ancestor in the extended family with a connection to a major historical incident. This is false genealogy. Any Joe Soap can claim to have an ancestor who was living close by to an event mentioned in history books. If a celeb must be employed to give added attraction, then we are only interested in his/her direct lineage - nothing else.

By the way - Britain & Ireland now have popular TV shows in which non-celeb guests are shown their unique and fascinating ancestry. The use of stage-managed celebs is very limited, and very dangerous, research integrity-wise. NBC take note (if they care).


thouse1208 said...

Sorry to see that NBC dropped this show. I really enjoyed it and watched as many as my schedule would permit. Even though the celebrities clearly received special treatment and assistance that many of us would never be able to affor, I still learned a lot about steps that can be taken and documents that are available. I too hope that another network picks it up.

carolyn said...

Now I have no reason to watch NBC after 11 am! I am sorely disappointed in this decision.