Lisa Kudrow, star of "Friends", was in Ireland filming "PS I Love You" a few years back when, according to one of the Sunday papers here, she was inspired to take on a new project - to produce a new television series, which will be broadcast in America starting in March.

Now, you might think to yourself that artists being inspired by Ireland is hardly something new, but Kudrow (photo) was inspired while inside watching t.v., not out admiring the beautiful rocky, green landscape. Kudrow's inspiration was an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are," a BBC program that RTE has adapted for Ireland.

The basic concept behind WDYTYA (#WDYTYA on Twitter) is that someone the public knows will research their family tree and we the audience get to experience their discovery. It may sound dull, but it is usually far from that. You may even remember I wrote about this back in July and described WDYTYA as 'must see t.v.' (That post is now lost to the site, but I've reproduced it below)

For many of the featured celebrities it is an emotional experience as they learn about the hardships or tragedies that their grandparents, great-grandparents and further back had to overcome. Some of them get visibly moved and, although they're generally showbiz people and capable of putting it on, anyone who's researched their own family history can relate to the emotions on display - you feel closely connected to people you've never met simply because you know their blood runs in your veins.

Something you have to realize is that not knowing who the celebrity is doesn't matter. Some of the best episodes I've seen have been ones where I had no idea who the celebrity was. In fact, the episode I wrote about in July was about a British radio DJ who I'd never heard of before.

From the first time I saw WDYTYA I thought it would suit America to a tee, in fact better than any other country for the simple reason that Americans all have the immigrant stories that are generally the best ones to watch. And even if the celebrity is a bit stuck on themselves, that usually fades as they learn little truths about their family's past. (And, it's amazing how often bigamy comes up!)

The American series of WDYTYA premiers on NBC on March 5. I just hope the American series is as entertaining as the British and Irish versions. If it is, it will be well worth watching.

Originally Posted July 22, 2009

Genealogy as Must See tv

There are times when I love the BBC. Tonight was one of them.

I just finished watching Who Do You Think You Are? and, honestly, it was riveting. This is a series that has been on for years, and it's often been riveting in the past. Tonight was one of the best.

The idea of the series is that basically we watch some semi-well known person research their roots. Tonight it was Chris Moyles, a DJ on BBC radio. I knew nothing of him before tonight, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment of the show.

Anyone with Irish roots would enjoy this program. All of Moyles' family was from Ireland and they all came from extreme poverty. There are a couple of twists in his family story that would probably differ from that of most Irish-Americans - like the grandmother from the slums of Dublin, always more likely to head to Britain than America - but I still think people of Irish descent anywhere would find the story moving.

My only regret is that the BBC doesn't allow people outside the UK to watch their shows online. If they did, I'd highly recommend it. If they show this series on BBC America, look out for the Chris Moyles episode. It's worth it.