Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jeanie's Public TV Pick of the Week

There are lots of good things about working for a public TV station – one of the best is getting a sneak peek at upcoming shows. My “pick of the week” is “African American Lives 2.” You may have seen the first season of this a couple of years ago, or a single special featuring Oprah Winfrey. If you haven’t, the premise is simple. Take a group of African Americans, turn Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. loose with their family trees – or what they know of them – along with a posse of DNA researchers and others adept in genealogy, and see what fascinating stories pop up.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with Jackie Joyner-Kersee
First off, Gates is downright delightful. He’s like a terrier on a tear, excited by every new fact that pops up and intrigued by all of his subjects. This season they include poet Maya Angelou, author Bliss Broyard, actor/performers Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman, Tina Turner, Chris Rock and Tom Joyner, athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, theologian Peter Gomes, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, and college administrator Kathleen Henderson, who was selected from more than 2,000 applicants to have her family history researched and DNA tested alongside the series’ well-known guests.

The subjects are really interesting and it’s fun to see what surprises turn up in the family tree. (At a PBS conference Gates told the audience that they approached Alicia Keyes to participate. I’m not sure if I remember this one quite correctly, but her grandmother said no. Too many loose ends… )

The show runs this week and next (which includes a riveting account of life in slavery by Morgan Freeman’s great-grandmother, discovered within the records of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration). In Michigan it’s at 9 p.m. on Wednesday with additional repeats. Check your listings for times in your areas.

By the way, the website at PBS.org is fun with profiles of all the participants and excellent resources. While many are targeted to African Americans, there’s a lot of info for anyone interested in checking out their own family tree!


Rosa said...

I saw this last year and it is fascinating. I'd love to know my ancestry!

Pam Aries said...

I love my PBS! Now that I don't have cable ,I watch it so much more. Altho I miss Discovery and Animal Planet..I can get a good fix with PBS! Here in Charleston it's SC ETV!

robinbird said...

how nice of you to do my daily pick for me! jeannie this is a great review. now i don't actually have a TV but if i did this would be right up my alley as a show i would to see.. sometimes i actually go somewhere that has a TV so i can watch the Lim Lehr news show on PBS. keep those recommendations coming so i can find a good excuse to rent a motel on the beach :)

Artsy Etc. said...

We did a screening of this show at a local college. The reviews were favorable.

Pat said...

This looks so interesting! I was watching an "Everyday Food" episode on my local PBS station this afternoon, and I just saw an ad for this show during it. They were giving the comedian Chris Rock information about one of his ancestors, and he had tears in his eyes. Now after reading your blog post about it, Jeannie, I definitely will watch the show to find out more. Thanks!

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