NEW YORK (CNS) — As the television networks continue to move away from a traditional fall season, instead debuting new programs throughout the year, here’s a look at two forthcoming series premieres on NBC and at an episode of the PBS series “American Experience” slated to air for the first time the same week.
The documentary series “Who Do You Think You Are?” (NBC) follows seven celebrities as they explore their ancestry and discover various secrets hidden amid the foliage of the family tree. In the pilot episode, airing Friday, March 5, 8-9 p.m. EST, actress Sarah Jessica Parker learns that her forebears were involved in two of the most significant incidents in America’s past: the 1849 California gold rush and the Salem witch trials that convulsed colonial Massachusetts in the 1690s.
It’s an intriguing — and unobjectionable — introduction to the fascination of genealogy as well as a painless history lesson for younger viewers.
The sprawling family drama “Parenthood” (NBC) chronicles the frequently chaotic lives of four Berkelely, Calif.,-based siblings: Sarah (Lauren Graham), Julia (Erika Christensen), Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Adam (Peter Krause) Braverman. Premiering Tuesday, March 2, 10-11 p.m. EST, the series — which also features Craig T. Nelson as the clan’s patriarch Zeek and Bonnie Bedelia as his wife Camille — presents a mixed bag of plot elements ranging from Adam’s moving efforts to cope with his young son Max’s (Max Burkholder) Asperger’s syndrome to Sarah’s reunion with an old boyfriend that ends up as a sexual encounter.
Along with a couple of instances of crass language, the show’s freewheeling treatment of condom use, sperm donation and teen sexuality make it completely unsuitable for family viewing, while also overwhelming its limited potential appeal to adults.
“Dolley Madison” (PBS) presents an engaging portrait of the Southern belle (1768-1849) who, as a young widow in 1794, married the nation’s future fourth president and who is credited by many with inventing the unofficial office of first lady during her husband’s eight-year tenure in the White House.
Using dramatic re-creations based on letters and other surviving documents of the period, and featuring Eve Best as Dolley and Jefferson Mays as James Madison, the program — which premieres Monday, March 1, 9-10:30 p.m. EST — charts, among other aspects of her tumultuous life, Dolley’s unsettled relationship with the Quaker faith in which she was raised, her skill at using social events to soothe bitter political rivalries and her courageous reaction to the British invasion of Washington during the War of 1812.
Though generally free of problematic content, and a valuable survey of a vital period, references to the perceived lack of modesty in Dolley’s choice of dress and the charges of “whore-mongering” that were a staple of the era’s fevered journalism may make this best suited for teens or above.
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.