When I was living in a scholarship house at Florida State University back in the mid-1960s, one of the other girls in the house would say that something had her "surprised and pleased."
Tonight's debut episode of Who Do You Think You Are? has me "surprised and pleased." They have done it the way I wish Henry Louis Gates had done it! They stuck with one person through the hour, the person herself -- Sarah Jessica Parker -- did actual travel on the trail of her ancestors, from New Jersey to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Eldorado, California, to Salem, Massachusetts. They had real genealogists and real librarians and real historians showing a little bit of the process (you cannot show the entire process in one television hour) of research, and they had Ms. Parker making the acutal discoveries in some instances, rather than just sitting at a table and being handed a book. Sorry, Dr. Gates -- I think WDYTYA has it right.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether this level will continue, but I think it has a good chance. As my husband observed, they "de-celebritied" the thing pretty quickly, taking the right tack and concentrating on the search for ancestors. I still would like to see them use plain people, too, but for a show using a celebrity, this one was well and intelligently done.
I would like to see more emphasis on the correct use of records and the correct citation of sources, but that's pretty dull stuff for the TV audience, I guess. (I also wish that every census sheet had the gorgeous handwriting of that 1850 Eldorado census!). They did rather gloss over the establishment of connection between her ancestors John E. and John S. Hodge, but again, they just can't show the entire process in a television hour.
I am, indeed, surprised and pleased.