Tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) was the fifth programme of the seventh series and featured Kim Cattrall as the celebrity subject. She is probably best known as Samantha Jones from the popular television series Sex and the City.
This episode has probably been the most talked about episode of this current series, with several articles revealing that the episode is pretty much about her desire to find out what happened to her missing grandfather and the impact that the investigation had on her and her family.
I don’t think that there has been such a tightly focused episode in the history of WDYTYA, or one with such a well defined aim from the outset. I have great admiration for Kim Cattrall for not only wanting to find out more, but for allowing it to take place in front of the camera. It was never going to be an easy journey to make, and there was never likely to be a happy ending for the family.
There were some very moving scenes, like where Kim’s mother and aunts described so vividly the abandonment and hardship they had faced after his disappearance. Their strength and that of their mother in the face of such hardship is truly remarkable. It is hard to imagine that such poverty existed in parts of this country 70 years ago.
There was very little documentary research shown on screen, some searching of passenger lists for George Baugh’s attempt to stowaway to America was about it. Most of the progress in the story seems to have come from meeting and speaking to neighbours and family, something which was only possible because they were dealing with a much more recent time period than in most episodes (and the fact that they had a celebrity and a camera crew probably helped open doors).
In the final scenes, where Kim revealed the second life of her grandfather to her mother and aunts, she sounded to me like she was in a courtroom, prosecuting this man for what he had done, and perhaps in a way she was. There was never likely to be a question about the verdict. Understandably there was anger and disbelief, but I got the impression that there was also an element of relief that his secret was out and some closure was found. Perhaps not a happy ending, but an ending nevertheless.