Who Do You Think You Are? – Alan Cumming

14 Sep

The producers of Who Do You Think You Are? were certainly saving the best for last. Last night’s episode featuring actor Alan Cumming was without doubt the best episode of the seventh series, and probably one of the best episodes in the show’s six year history.

Alan Cumming was an enthusiastic participant and one that I had heard of previously (although my memories are of The High Life rather than any of his more acclaimed performances). At the start seemed to be enjoying hearing about the stories his grandfather’s bravery a little too much, but my heart really went out to him at the end with the story of his grandfather’s tragic and needless death.

He certainly didn’t seem prepared for the shocking details and I certainly felt more than a little uncomfortable watching his reactions on screen. In an episode that focused very much on the effects that war and killing can have on someone’s mental health, I couldn’t help but wonder what effect the programme might have on Cumming himself and ultimately his mother, and wonder if perhaps the programme went a little too far.

Ironically I had earlier in the evening written (in a private email) about how I felt there had been a lack of any real emotion in this series and I can safely say that this was the only episode where I personally felt any real emotional reaction whilst watching the series.

As well as being an excellent episode in itself, it has also served to highlight just how mediocre some of the previous episodes in this series had been. The “shocking” story of Bruce Forsyth’s bigamist great-grandfather that opened the series was nothing in comparison to the truly heart-breaking story of Cumming’s grandfather.

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8 Responses to “Who Do You Think You Are? – Alan Cumming”

  1. Rhonda Mathew June 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Family history is also a big part of my life, I just wish that BBC would consider ordinary people to feature on the show, It irritates me that the so called ‘Celebrities’ that have so far appeared get all the research done for them, when clearly they can afford to pay for a professional researcher. Whilst there are plenty of interesting ‘ordinary’ people that would love to be featured.

    I for one, was born on a council estate in Bradford in the early 1950′s and have struggled all my life to make ends meet, however after doing my Family research for over 20 yrs have uncovered many suprises including Bigamy, Slave owners, Sea Captain (Lost at sea) , Surveyors, plantation owners , Friends of John keats, (George Felton Mathew) my grgrgrgrandfather. London Merchants , the list goes on. I have always had the notion that I came from better stock. My research has confirmed it.

    • John October 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      What does ‘better stock’ mean?

      You should be proud of who you are and where you come from.

    • Rhonda Mathew October 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

      john,

      not sure about my ‘better stock’ probably not how it sounds, I mean I was hoping to find ancestors that had made a mark. i not a snob. I am proud of my ancestors achievments.

  2. Mike August 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    i have done mine through Ancestral Footsteps which is a private company run by staff from the programme. Excellent

    • Rhonda Mathew October 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

      hi Mike,
      What do Ancestral Footsteps charge for their service????

  3. Mark September 16, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    I was disappointed he didnt research his Cumming ancestry. I know I may be in a minority of one but find episodes where they barely get back into the 19th century really fairly uninteresting because such information is so readily available.

    When the episodes show research back into the 17th century and earlier then it is of interest to me.

  4. Paul Travres_jones November 23, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    I look at Who Do You Think YOu Are being a resident (and citizen of both Australia and NZ). I also see there are no plans for the future.
    Amazed!
    How about the Jewel in the Crown….and all those affected by it (damn near half of Fiji’s population for a start)

    How about many of NZ’s population, or Africa.
    Is that just all too hard to tackle.
    Auntie – you’re getting just a little too sedintary in you’re old age.

  5. Linda Burns July 1, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    I watched this from the USA–the power of the internet! We have a similar program here–also sadly and oddly, celebrity-centric. Still, the Alan Cumming story was the one of the most moving and powerful do date–perhaps because he was so candid. He chose the ‘hole’ in his family–as much perhaps for his family as himself. And what he found was a fascinating and heart-wrenching story. The most powerful scene was when he wept because his granny could not pay the 4 pence to get her husband’s effects. The hole left by his maternal grandfather’s absence was massive and lingers across generations. It said to me that each of us living ‘ordinary lives’ perhaps struggling to find meaning and purpose, weighed down by circumstances and inner demons, often fail to see the value of that ‘small, ordinary life’ . Certainly Tom Darling lost sight of this early on in his life and yet he impacted so many lives by just being the man he was. And the early loss of him still ripples through the lives of so many who knew, loved, respected him Alan Cumming was right in his observation about secrets–but he should have added that the secrets from oneself can be equally painful and sadly painful for those who love them. LHB

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