The genealogical series' executive producer discusses the show's journey from broadcast to cable
"Who Do You Think You Are?" — like "Cougar Town," "Southland" and Conan O'Brien — found a second life on cable after broadcast.
On Friday nights, the genealogical show attracted six to seven million loyal viewers weekly to NBC — numbers that the network would be happy with today. But, it is (and was) a network in flux. And producer Dan Bucatinsky said that it was looking at "Who Do You Think You Are?'s" cherry 8 p.m. slot for a possible comedy block.
"It's hard to know what a particular network's needs are in that moment and what their strategies are going to be for change, what they want their brand to be," the show's executive producer and "Scandal" star told TheWrap.
"I was disappointed only because we were on a roll," he said of the 2012 cancelation. "We were nominated for an Emmy that year. I feel this is the kind of show that can become a staple after years and years like 'American Masters' on PBS and go ahead and do 20 seasons, because the stories are always different."
Now on TLC, the good news is that the series saw double digit increases in viewership in its second week on the network.
Bucatinsky spoke with TheWrap about the cancelation, changes to the show on TLC and his favorite aspects of the current season.
TheWrap: What feels worse? A cancelation when you're the actor or a cancelation when you're the executive producer?
Dan Bucatinsky: They both feel really bad and really personal in a different way. When you're an actor, you don't necessarily know what's going on. But when you produce something, you're part of all of it. I think there is something a little bit deeper when you produce something and it goes away. You're like the parent of a child.
What are you doing differently on the show for TLC versus NBC?
Our budget is significantly lower. That doesn't affect the amount of research we do. We haven't compromised on quality, but we had to adjust the show for the budget we had. Sometimes, the best creative decisions come from necessity. With shooting fewer days, we're a little more creative about the manner and efficiency as to how the story comes out. Something that we may have teased over three segments would be done over two, so that may make the pace feel a little bit different or the manner in which the information hits the audience. But, those are subtle changes. Really, the difference comes from people's backgrounds and the research itself. The good news is TLC liked what we were doing for NBC and they didn't ask for any changes. So, it was just a matter of adjusting to our budget and the days that we have.
What's the goal for every episode?
Our goal is to personalize history every single time and to let our subjects experience it themselves. That's something we aim for on every episode.
You've racked up an impressive list of celebrities this season. What has stood out for you?
There is something quite remarkable about every one of them. That's not a coincidence. We wouldn't shoot a story unless we discovered something remarkable. There are some great coincidences and brushes with some of the greatest iconic moments of American history in Chris O'Donnell's episode.
Zooey Deschanel's is a fun one, because she's sort of heard oral history passed down from her father but never really understood the story and what it meant to be a Quaker in this country and what they stood for and how her relatives were involved in such a major point in history. The thing that we found remarkable about this season was the number of original documents written in the actual hand of the relative. It's pretty amazing when you get to read words written by a relative that we uncovered. Those are the chilling goose bump moments that we aim for on the show.