The new season of Who Do You Think You Are? started this evening with an episode featuring actress Cynthia Nixon, best known for her portrayal of Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series, Sex and the City (1998–2004), the film, Sex and the City (2008), and its sequel, Sex and the City 2 (2010). She is an Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner.
Cynthia had asked the show’s producers to trace her father’s ancestry. Cynthia’s parents were divorced when she was young. Cynthia was raised primarily by her mother with her father having visiting rights on weekends. In the program, Cynthia mentioned that her father rarely talked about his family. Cynthia was curious about them. Indeed, the professional genealogists who performed the research for the television program found one very interesting ancestor: Cynthia’s great-great-great-grandmother murdered her husband with an ax and served hard time for the crime. Apparently, he had been a very abusive husband. A newspaper account hinted that his cruelty was far beyond what was common in those days, so horrible that the newspaper would not print the details.
However, charges were reduced from first degree murder to manslaughter, and she received a shorter sentence than she would have served as a murderer. After serving about two years, she was pardoned by the Missouri governor.
Cynthia’s great-great-great-grandmother became only the second female inmate of the state penitentiary. She gave birth while in prison although the child apparently was not fathered by her late husband.
All in all, I thought this was one of the better episodes I have seen of Who Do You Think You Are? The story was interesting. The research process shown was brief but did reflect the method in which genealogy research should be performed. I can quibble about a detail or two. For instance, you don’t have to go to Washington, D.C. to view Union Civil War pension files; copies are easily available elsewhere. However, I am sure a personal trip by Cynthia Nixon made for better television programming.
One thing I appreciated was the very, very brief review of the story after each commercial, unlike the first year’s episodes, and perhaps even a bit shorter than last year’s series of Who Do You Think You Are?
There were far too many commercials, but we all expect that on today’s television. I think I will record future episodes and watch them later, at my leisure, when I can fast-forward through the commercial messages. Perhaps even better, I will do what I did last year: wait until each episode becomes available online. The online versions typically have far fewer commercials. Watching online or on the DVR without commercials makes for a better viewing experience.
Disclaimer: I rarely watch any television programs. When I do watch commercial television, I am very sensitive to how intrusive the commercials can be.
If you missed this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with Cynthia Nixon, you undoubtedly can watch it soon in TLC’s reruns. It also should become available on iTunes (for a fee) shortly and also on Hulu.com within a few days. At least, that was true of last year’s episodes, and I suspect the same will be true this year.
Next week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? will feature Jesse Tyler Ferguson, an American actor known for portraying Mitchell Pritchett on the ABC sitcom, Modern Family, which has earned him 5 nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.