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Who Do You Think You Are? Bruce Forsyth

20 Jul

Last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring the entertainment legend Bruce Forsyth, was the first of the nine episodes in the new UK series.

Whilst the story of Bruce’s great-grandfather Joseph Forsyth Johnson was quite an interesting one, a successful landscape gardener with a wife and family on both sides of the Atlantic who died poor, the way the story was told seemed very long-winded to me.

The way the research was carried out seemed incredibly laboured, or at least that was the way it seemed on screen. I was left with the feeling that given access to the right online database (and a trip to the Family History Centre) I could have done most of the search in a couple of hours. They didn’t seem to stray very far from census returns, passenger lists and directories, most of which are easily accessible these days.

I am sure there was more research going on behind the scenes. One of the first things I would have done is contact the American ‘cousin’ to see what she knew. I expect the researchers probably did, but just didn’t show it on film. The overall impression was that they were dragging the story out to fill the full hour.

I feel the story surrounding his two wives was not really explained, but to be fair probably it never would be satisfactorily (through lack of records), but the fact that Joseph was coming back over to England to visit his children suggests that the split with his first wife may have been amicable (from the diary some of his children certainly didn’t seem to bear him any bad feeling), rather than him running away to America and abandoning them, which was the impression that I got from watching the show.

I even found the ending of the show rather predictable, the saccharine closing comments of the narrator about the cemetery, were not unsurprising and I would have been disappointed if Bruce hadn’t made some effort to have the grave of Joseph marked in some way, after all I am sure he has the money to be able to afford it.

Overall it was an interesting story, but it probably could have been told in half the time. Alright perhaps for the casual viewer, but for a demanding (impatient?) genealogist it fell short of previous episodes.

Victorian Pharmacy

19 Jul

Last Thursday saw the first episode  of a new four part series on BBC 2 entitled Victorian Pharmacy. The series is produced by the same company (Lion Television) who produced Victorian Farm, which was shown last year.

The series looks at the workings of a Victorian pharmacists’ shop. The first episode sees the shows two main stars, Ruth Goodman (also from Victorian Farm) and Nick Barber, along with their apprentice Tom Quick setting up shop in the re-constructed Victorian town at Blists Hill.

We saw quite a wide range of activities in the first episode, from gathering herbs for traditional remedies to the creation of a slightly more scientific remedy in a rather basic (by today’s standards) laboratory.

Like Victorian Farm there were several experts on hand to explain some of the principles, and there was also a stream of ‘customers’ willing to try out their remedies and treatments.

Their shop was quite spectacular to look at with all sorts of bottles, jars, pots, boxes and packages displayed on the counter, in glass cabinets and on shelves. I am not sure how typical this would have been, because the shop is itself is a museum exhibit.

I certainly had trouble reconciling the image that I have in my mind of my GEERING chemists and druggists with what was shown on screen. Admittedly my mental image comes largely from the description provided by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish.

I just can’t imagine my GEERINGs mixing remedies or gathering ingredients from the countryside surrounding Hailsham, Sussex. I see them more as shopkeepers buying in ready made preparations for sale to the residents of Hailsham.

Overall the programme was fun and entertaining, there was a small element of education, but the emphasis was more on things that seemed shocking or laughable to our modern eyes, like the use of leeches.

As a glimpse into the possible lives of my ancestors it is invaluable, I just wish I knew more about what was in their shop and whether their business flourished or was avoided like the plague by the residents of Hailsham.

Not enough time for TV

15 Jul

I don’t watch much television at the best of times, but starting a new job has really limited the amount of spare time I have to waste watching television.

I still haven’t watched the latest US episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (Susan Sarandon, last Monday), tonight sees the start of the new series Victorian Pharmacy and the latest UK series of Who Do You Think You Are? starts next Monday.

To top it all I have just bought the DVD of the fifth UK series, I am beginning to wonder when I am going to get chance to watch that or any of the other four series that I already have on DVD. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I am just thankful that the latest programmes are all being broadcast on the BBC, so I will be able to catch them later on the BBC iPlayer.

It is really annoying that for months, when I was out of work and didn’t have to get up early in the morning, that there was nothing that I considered to be worth watching or staying up late for. Now when I don’t have the time, all the interesting stuff starts. Just typical!

After the Victorian Farm comes the Victorian Pharmacy

11 Jul

This week sees the start of a new four part series on BBC Two, that has captured my attention more than the forthcoming new series of Who Do You Think You Are?

According to the BBC website the series Victorian Pharmacy is a “historical observational documentary series which recreates a Victorian pharmacy”. For someone like me with druggists in my family tree this should be really interesting.

The programme was filmed at Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge, Shropshire (a place that has long been on my list of places to visit) in a reconstructed pharmacy. Even though the series hasn’t started yet there is already a book of the series available.

The first episode is scheduled for Thursday 15th July 2010 at 9pm on BBC 2, and is a “look at the world of the pharmacy at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837.”

Who Do You Think You Are? US – Brooke Shields

5 Jul

Sunday night saw the screening of another episode of the US version of Who Do You Think You Are?, this one featuring actress Brooke Shields.

At the start I was beginning to wonder if there was going to be any genealogy, as it seemed to take ages to get moving and away from the fact that she was from New York.

The first part in Newark was quite interesting, not only because of the obligatory ‘celebrity trying to work a microfilm reader’ shot, but also because of the picture that the historian was able to paint of the neighbourhood.

I did feel that the programme left this side of the family a bit prematurely. I would have liked to find out where the (probably) immigrant ancestors had come from, but I guess the travel budget was being saved for the other side of the family.

The other side of the family was the rich and famous side, and as such there was no genealogy seen on screen, other than the handing over of a scroll with her father’s ancestry already laid out for her.

We have seen this several times on the UK version, where the show moves away from researching and interpreting the lives of the ancestors, to capturing the reaction of the celebrity as he/she is revealed to be the descendant of increasingly wealthy/powerful/pious individuals.

Brooke Shields seemed genuinely interest and enthusiastic as she was shown paintings and sculptures of her illustrious ancestors and it certainly made for great television. Like the previous episode, the best place to find out more details is on the NBC website, not the BBC website.

Coming up next week is Susan Sarandon, on BBC One at 10.35pm on Monday 12th July 2010.

Who Do You Think You Are? US – the next episode this weekend

3 Jul

It seems that over here in the UK we are being drip fed episodes from the US version of the Who Do You Think You Are?

The next episode featuring Brooke Shields is being shown on BBC One on Sunday 4th July at 9.15pm, three weeks since the previous one.

Is there any logic to the schedules? or should we just blame the World Cup?

Who Do You Think You Are? – Latest British celebrities revealed

21 Jun

In preparation for the next series of Who Do You Think You Are? (due for screening at the end of July), the BBC have announced the line up of celebrities appearing on the programme.

This gives me the chance to play the game "Who Do I Think They Are?". The rules are simple, take on genealogy blogger and one list of celebrities and see if the genealogy blogger has heard of any of the celebrities.

For those of you playing along at home here is the list of celebrities:

  • Bruce Forsyth
  • Rupert Everett
  • Monty Don
  • Jason Donovan
  • Rupert Penry-Jones
  • Dervla Kirwan
  • Alan Cumming
  • Alexander Armstrong
  • Hugh Quarshie (according to Wikipedia)

I’m afraid I didn’t do very well. I have heard of five out of nine of the celebrities (Bruce Forsyth, Monty Don, Jason Donovan, Dervla Kirwan and Alan Cumming) but that probably says more about my celebrity knowledge than the fame or celebrity status of any of the celebrities.

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