22 January 2009

Lisa Kudrow: A friend in the family

Lisa Kudrow is off to Belarus with a camera crew to investigate her roots, according to The Forward's Nathan Burstein.

Known for a decade's worth of playing Phoebe on "Friends," Kudrow is executive producer of the US version of the BBC hit, "Who Do You Think You Are?" according to a March 2008 Reuters story. NBC will air the American version.

Her physician father is a genealogist whom I met in the '90s while visiting friends in the San Fernando Valley. The Kudrows, like my Talalay clan, are from Mogilev, and their family name appears in Mogilev databases.

Kudrow said the project will be a historical documentar about how history shapes your family tree. She also said that the name means "curly hair" in Belarusian.

The US show will follow Kudrow and five other celebrites as they check into their family trees. She's not allowed to name the other celebs, but said the NBC series “took me back to Belarus to find a cousin who survived the Holocaust but is dead now.”

Tracing the Tribe previously blogged about the Kudrow project here, back in March 2008. For those too tired to click on my original post, here it is:

Finally ... American TV has seen the light!

According to Reuters, NBC is now going to dig up celebrity family trees along the lines of the popular BBC show, Who Do You Think You Are?.

Executive producer for the series is Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe of "Friends"). Kudrow grew up in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Her father, a famous headache physician (working with migraines), is also a genealogist searching their family's roots; I met him years ago at a mutual friend's home. Their family is from Mogilev, Belarus - same as my TALALAY family. I can only hope that he encouraged Kudrow to become involved in this project!

According to Kudrow's webpage, she seems suited to this task. With her background in biology, perhaps we will also see DNA genetic genealogy worked into the series.

Kudrow graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with a B.S. degree in biology. Intending to pursue a career in research, she returned to Los Angeles and began working with her father, a world-renowned headache specialist. In all likelihood, Kudrow would be a researcher today if she had not been inspired to perform by one of her brother's friends, actor/comedian Jon Lovitz (NBC's "Saturday Night Live").

The BBC show's fourth season premiere scored the highest rating ever - some 6.8 million viewers tuned in.Tracing the Tribe's readership might be interested to learn that an Israeli version is also in the works, and I'll post more on this IBA development later.

Here is the original Reuters article:

NBC digging up celebs' family trees

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If exploring the lives of celebrities seems a little tired, NBC has a solution: Find their relatives.

The network is developing an American version of the hit British series "Who Do You Think You Are," where stars are shown the oft-surprising details of their ancestors' lives.

In the UK version, the series uncovered backstories included tales of bigamy, wartime heroism and, in one case, attempted murder. Celebrity participants often are brought to tears as they learn about their relatives' hardships.

Producers are researching the family trees of several interested celebrity candidates to see whether they have compelling backgrounds (the network declined to name the candidates). Former "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow will serve as an executive producer.

Celebrity-based reality shows have been on the rise, fueled by the success of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." NBC found success with "The Celebrity Apprentice" this season and has "Celebrity Circus," premiering this summer.

"Who Do You Think You Are," which launched in 2004, will air its fifth season on BBC1 this year. Its fourth-season premiere in the summer scored the show's highest rating ever, with 6.8 million viewers tuning in.

The show is credited with sparking an interest in genealogy among many BBC viewers. Last year, BBC Magazines began publishing Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, a monthly publication about tracing one's family tree. Versions of "Who Do You Think You Are" also are in production in Canada and Australia. Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

I can't wait to see this one!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:10 PM

    It must be nice to be able to uncover family history/heritage.

    I can't even go back in my family history to find my biological father. Why? Simply because I was adopted. The only record of me on Ancestry.com is a one line entry on the California Birth Index. It then appears that I cease to exist. My birth name belongs to a ghost now. My descendants will not be able to trace back our family tree past me. It stops with me. My branch was severed from the family tree.

    Sealed/amended birth certificates are modern-day sales receipts for adoptive parents that assure them that our (adoptees) family histories, nationalities and cultures are irrelevant. We are legally transformed into living "blank canvasses or slates" during the adoption process and then have new identities painted onto us. We are issued fake (amended) birth certificates with new names and new parents listed on them.

    It is 2010. I want the truthful documentation of my birth unsealed NOW. Ownership of human beings did not cease to exist when slavery was abolished. People are still treated like chattel in the "land of the free".

    This injustice and blatant discrimination against fellow human beings continues in the "land of the free" because the non-adopted majority has refused to take a stand against it.

    Lisa...I hear you are now a executive producer of this show? If that is the case, I challenge you and the show to try to uncover an adopted person's family tree with sealed birth records and document the struggle/harassment an adopted person endures trying to get this information.

    birth name: Christine