Friday, August 02, 2013

A Couple Reviews Of Current Family History TV Shows

Hello All:

Long time, no blogging.  I know it has been a long time since my last post.  Things have been that busy around here that blogging gets put aside at times.  Well, as my title states above, I wanted to briefly give my thoughts on a couple family history tv shows that are on the BBC just now.  One of them is the latest series of WDYTYA and the other is a family history satire called "Family Tree."

The newest series of Who Do You Think You Are (UK edition) is just two weeks old.  It comes on BBC on a Wed. night at 9:00 pm.  The first episode involved Una Stubbs (Sherlock, etc.) and the second episode just this week was Nigel Havers (Chariots of Fire, etc.).  For me, this new series seems like the previous ones in that there are some episodes that are more interesting than others.  They also seem to focus attention on one or two particular ancestors in depth, which is really all one can do in an hour long show.  So, it can be a bit slow in getting to the point.  Some ancestors can be more interesting than others in everyone's family history.  I still find the show quite interesting and worth watching even for it being on for several seasons now.  I always hope that the celebs that are participating in these shows are genuinely interested in what they find out about their ancestors and not putting on any sort of "show" for the audience/cameras.  I particularly like seeing the different types of documents being searched.  In the Nigel Havers episode it was good to see how much newspapers were used in learning more about his specific ancestor he was trailing.  And with Una Stubbs' story, it was good to see how she learned that she and her ancestor both worked for Rowntrees Chocolate through employment records and archives.  Even though the show has been around a while and can be a bit predictable in its style, I still enjoy it and look forward to my Wed. evening tv night.

The BBC programme, Family Tree, is more of a satire or comedy and is entirely different from the WDYTYA type shows.  This show has also just started two weeks ago.  One can usually watch it on BBC2 on a Tues. evening at 10:00 pm (at least in Scotland).  I have watched both episodes and I am not too sure about it.  It is shown in a documentary style of the main character called Tom Chadwick played by Irish actor Chris O'Dowd.  The first episode was mainly introducing the characters of the show and the plot of Tom inheriting an old chest from his deceased aunt.  Tom goes through the chest and finds family items, photos, etc.  He finds an old photo of a man dressed in a military uniform and assumes it is a great grandfather, but when he goes to a photo expert he is told that it isn't a relative in the photo, but his relative took the photo.  The second episode involved Tom finding a 1948 British Olympic jersey and wanted to find out how it belonged to in the family.  He discovers that his grandfather was a boxer in that year's Olympics.  Tom goes to the boxing club where his grandfather trained and interviews older boxers that may have remembered him. 

As being a comedy, I haven't really found it that funny.  It can be a bit crude and some sweary words dropped from time to time from the characters, hence it being shown at 10:00 at night.  Tom's sister Bea can be a bit annoying with the monkey prop she uses all the time.  It also seems to have a radom feel to it, things just seem to hop around in an unconnected way.  I also find it a bit hard to make out what some of the characters are saying - their speech seems a bit fast and mumblely, but maybe it seems that way to my American ear.  I will still watch it, but I haven't really been able to get into it as a genealogist.  But, I suppose it really wasn't made or intended to be that genealogically serious. 

One show that I did enjoy watching and thought was interesting and very sad was ITV's Secrets from the Workhouse that was shown earlier this summer.  It was only a two part series, but it was very fascinating to learn the real history and horrors of the workhouse or poorhouse.  In the two part episode, presenter Fern Britton, actress Kiera Chaplin, actor Brian Cox, actress Felicity Kendal and author Barbara Taylor Bradford go back to the sites of the workhouses where their ancestors lived to find out what happened to them.  I felt that Brian Cox was a bit over the top in his reactions, but it is hoped that the feelings were genuine.  It was great to see him at the Glasgow Archives, but I didn't particularly like seeing him pound his fists on old documents - even with the archivist by his side. 

In my work experience as a professional genealogist, I have come across numerous client ancestors who unfortunately themselves were in the workhouses/poorhouses in Scotland.  Many of them having died in their elder years in such a place.  Watching such a programme as this makes one appreciate the way things are today.

If you have missed any of these shows that I have very briefly discussed above just go to the BBC website and the ITV website (not sure if the Workhouse programme is still available or not online) and put in the titles and you should be able to watch them online or you can watch them on "catch up" on BBC IPlayer.

Until Next Time . . . .