Here’s more breaking news on the new PBS series, “Faces of America,” a four-show series that begins February 10. Read about the episode content and find links to video clips.
Episodes will air 8-9pm ET Wednesdays, February 10-March 3, on PBS.
As Tracing the Tribe has previously noted, the featured celebs are Eva Longoria, Meryl Streep, Mario Batali, Stephen Colbert, Malcolm Gladwell, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Kristi Yamaguchi, Elizabeth Alexander, Queen Noor and Louise Erdrich. While most PR for the show lists 11 Americans, the YouTube channel for Faces of America adds a 12th, Dr. Mehmet Oz of Turkish heritage. Most of the clips were posted less than 24 hours ago.
An email from the Rubenstein public relations firm for the show revealed that Oz was a late but important addition to the line-up, and his Turkish ancestry added to the diversity of the participants.
All participants submitted DNA tests for the show. According to the same email, the DNA testing was done by FamilyTreeDNA, 23&Me and KNOME.
One individual learned he’s Albert Einstein’s first cousin, another connects to a King of England, a third learns she’s related to a Founding Father. Some are even related to each other!
Hosted by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., he’s using the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore their family histories.
Go to the Faces of America YouTube channel to see many clips from the show (see list on right of that page), including Dr. Oz.
Here’s a short 3:39 clip with some of the poignant scenes of a few participants:
Here’s a run-down of the four episodes.
February 10: “The Promise of America”
Episode one explores the dynamic and shifting relationship America had with her new immigrants in the 20th century. World war tore apart families and sundered the fabric of many lives, but America beckoned and millions came. America was an ambivalent host, however. At its best, it was a place of refuge and salvation, as it was for film director Mike Nichols whose entire family escaped Nazi Germany. At its worst, it was a country that would imprison two generations of Japanese Americans, including the forebears of Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. Viewers will discover the buoyant American optimism that shaped chance — as in a single encounter that changed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s life forever — to pave the road to success.
February 17: “Becoming American”
Episode two explores the many journeys to becoming American that defined the “Century of Immigration” (1820s-1924) and transformed the United States from a sleepy agrarian country into a booming industrial power. Stephen Colbert’s Irish great-great-grandfather escaped poverty and religious oppression in Limerick and never looked back, whereas Mario Batali’s great-grandfather, who left the place where his family had lived for centuries, struggled to survive in the quartz mines of Montana. Queen Noor’s Syrian great-grandfather quickly found his footing in New York’s first Arab-American community, while Kristi Yamaguchi’s grandfather faced exclusionary laws and racially defined barriers to citizenship for decades. The obstacles, short cuts, tragedies and successes encountered or created by the guests’ ancestors from around the world reveal the complexity of our shared history and identity as Americans.
February 24: “Making America”
Episode three tells the story of the peopling of the New World, how land came to define the settling and identity of America and how the guests’ ancestors were part of this history. Viewers learn of Meryl Streep ’s eighth great-grandfather who fought in Metacom’s War; records of a land dispute in Spain that forced Eva Longoria Parker ’s ancestors to leave for the New World in 1603; and Yo-Yo Ma’s Chinese genealogy, which gives insights into the identity that Ma has longed for his whole life.
March 3: “The Record Within”
Episode four takes up the ancestor search where the historical record leaves off and links the guests’ distinctive family histories to the broader history of “the family of man.” Combining the documented stories of some of the guests’ last known ancestors with DNA evidence, the series travels backward through time to reveal both distant relatives and surprising shared ancestral connections. Elizabeth Alexander learns that she is a direct descendent of Charlemagne and that her paternal roots are not only European, but Jewish. Meryl Streep and Mike Nichols discover that they are distant cousins, as do Yo-Yo Ma and Eva Longoria Parker.
The last episode also includes Gates’ journey, with his father and brother, as they have their entire genomes mapped to learn all they can about their own family.
For those who live around the world – and where the show might never air – the episodes may be purchased at PBS Home Video.