Lisa Kudrow wants to know, "Who do you think you are?"
US TV star Lisa Kudrow, famous for the role of Phoebe in 'Friends', was in Cannes last week presenting her new TV series, "Who Do You Think You Are?", which will feature stars such as Susan Sarandon, Sarah Jessica-Parker, and many others. The program is based on the BBC show of the same name, and Kudrow was on stage at MIPCOM together with Alex Graham, CEO of Wall to Wall, the company that makes the BBC version, and fellow executive producer, Dan Bucatinsky. The show launches on prime time NBC in January.
When we caught up with Lisa and Dan, they were reminiscing about how Lisa first got interested in the concept. "I was filming on location in the Caribbean, and in the hotel room I was watching this British show where they research a celebrity's family tree. They were looking at a guy named Colin Jackson - I had no idea who he was, but the story was riveting. Each evening I could not wait to get back to watch another episode!"
Says Dan, "It's great storytelling, a journey of self-discovery for these celebrities and truly moving and life-changing,"
British audiences will already be familiar with the way many celebrities have begun the show assuming there is not much of interest in their background, only to discover some big surprises.
We previewed a clip from a show about Sarah Jessica Parker from "Sex in the city", and the magic formula is definitely there.
One big difference between the UK and the US versions is that in the UK the show runs for one hour with no breaks. In the states there are commercial breaks, meaning that the total running time is down to 42 minutes. This time is further reduced because the show has to run a short teaser to keep viewers until after the commercials. Then once the commercials are finished, there is a quick recap.
Alex Graham from Wall to Wall explains that he was expecting the American partners to demand far more changes: "I thought they would want it far faster and with more action. I was really surprised when the folks at NBC agreed with Lisa and Dan that we should use a leisurely pace. One thing they did go for was more narration by the central character".
For a program based on history, is there any issue in dealing with the States that has less history? Alex assures us that this is not a problem. "They have a shorter history, but it has been really dramatic". "Some of it good, some bad, most of it exciting", adds Lisa. "And of course there are the stories of immigration."
This connection with other countries around the world brings added joys and traumas. Lisa finds this out herself when she learns about the sufferings in her own family during the holocaust. "I also got a huge surprise, but I can't tell you about it yet." Truly moving and life-changing indeed.