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DVD Review: Who Do You Think You Are? Season 2

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Who Do You Think You Are? wraps up its third season this week. NBC recently announced the disappointing news that it would not be renewing the show for a fourth season. But fans of the genealogy program need not despair, as show partner Ancestry.com also announced that they “look forward to exploring other avenues of distribution.” Other good news is that in the meantime, its previous season has just become available on DVD. The 2-disc set Who Do You Think You Are: Season 2 includes all eight episodes from the second season. It runs for a total of 335 minutes in 16:9 widescreen format, with scene selection and SDH subtites available.

The show, an American adaptation of the original British series, and sponsored by genealogy website Ancestry.com, has struck a chord with viewers who not only want to trace their own roots, but have enjoyed watching well-known personalities discover and reveal family secrets and history. Genealogy requires a lot of legwork and research, and the featured celebrities are aided in their searches by genealogists, historians, and archivists. They frequently have to travel across the United States and even abroad to learn more about their family members.

[Vanessa Williams discovers that her great-great grandfather was a Tennessee legislator]

Season 2 features:

Disc 1:

Vanessa Williams – The first black Miss America and star of Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty finds out about one great-great grandfather’s role in the Civil War, and another who was a Tennessee legislator.

Tim McGraw – The country music star follows a path through early American settlement and history that reveals a surprise connection to George Washington.

Rosie O’Donnell – The comic travels to Ireland and learns how the harsh realities of the Irish potato famine affected her ancestors.

Kim Cattrall – The star of Sex and the City traces her English roots and uncovers a family secret about her grandfather.

Disc 2:

Lionel Richie – The award-winning singer and songwriter’s great-grandfather’s past tells an emotional story of slavery in the American South.

Steve Buscemi – In a fascinating episode, the star of Boardwalk Empire and countless films discovers a genealogical small world – his ancestors lived in the same neighborhood where he and his family currently live. Further research into the past reveals mistaken identity, Civil War service, depression, and the actor makes a connection to a living relative.

[Steve Buscemi looks into his family history]

Gwyneth Paltrow – The actress looks into both sides of her family, first traveling to Barbados to find about her mother’s side. On her father’s side she learns that her great-great grandfather was a revered rabbi.

Ashley Judd – The actress is surprised to discover that a family member traveled to America on the Mayflower.

Each celebrity not only discovers personal family history, but their family’s role in a greater world history. Who Do You Think You Are? is a wonderful and frequently touching reminder that all of our lives occur in interesting times, and that we all take part in history in one way or another. It is frequently revealed in an episode that an event in an ancestor’s past has an impact on the current generation’s lives – whether it was just the odds of surviving a brutal war that helped future generations come to be, or that interests and choices made in an ancestor’s life is reflected in the lives of their descendants.

Hopefully Who Do You Think You Are? will find a new home, as history, told in such a personal way, is a great thing to have on television. In the meantime, the first two seasons can be enjoyed on DVD.

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