'Who Do You Think You Are?': celebrity genealogy

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THE SHOW "Who Do You Think You Are?"

WHEN | WHERE Friday night at 8 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Seven-part series produced by Lisa Kudrow about the genealogical past of seven celebrities - herself, Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee. Coincidentally, Henry Louis Gates is hosting a similar series on PBS ("Faces of America") - although he's got Meryl Streep.

WHAT YOU'LL SEE Friday, we all go traipsing down Sarah Jessica Parker's genealogical garden path, so to speak, in search of her ancestry, though mostly from her mother's side of the family. Those are German immigrants in Cincinnati, but SJP goes further back and discovers a great (great, great) granddaddy who headed west during the gold rush, and a many-times-great granny implicated in the Salem witch trials. SJP is smitten with her newly discovered past, all hitherto unknown.

MY SAY There's a surefire way to clear out any cocktail party and send guests to the exit in a desperately furious headlong rush: Tell each of them about your family ancestry. Oh, sure, they may be politely interested at first. For example, did you know Newsday's TV critic is distantly related to Jesse James? It's not true - my wonderfully mischievous grandfather used to tell me that tale when I was growing up - but even if it were true, that's all you'd want to know. "Oh, that's interesting," you might politely and insincerely observe before changing the subject.

That's the problem with "Who Do You Think You Are?" You can't interrupt it. You can't say, "Well, gee, Sarah, that's fascinating, but how about that Naomi Campbell and the taxi ride! You know, Naomi, right?" Oh, no. SJP - who seems like a lovely person - just keeps rattling on and on and on . . . about gold rushes . . . Connecticut Yankees . . . witches . . . zzzzzzz. Here's a fundamental truth: Family genealogies are fascinating - to the family in question.

BOTTOM LINE Excuse me, but I gotta leave this party. I've got a date with Naomi.

GRADE C-

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