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Kudrow: "Who Do You Think You Are?" classes up NBC

"Quality programming" has finally returned to NBC, former "Friends" cast member Lisa Kudrow raved Tuesday of her own new NBC reality series, "Who Do You Think You Are?" in which we are entertained -- no, mesmerized -- watching celebrities trace their ancestral roots.

"It's just a high quality show, I think, and I love that NBC is getting back to basics and putting on quality programming," Kudrow said of the network that once broadcast "St. Elsewhere," "Hill St. Blues," "The Cosby Show," "Cheers," "Frasier," and "Seinfeld."

"I think this is a big deal," Kudrow simpered modestly on a phone news conference call with The Reporters Who Cover Television about her new program, which she's executive producing and which, she assured everyone on the call -- including WashPost TeamTV's genealogy reality series correspondent Emily Yahr -- is both "entertaining" and "enriching."

The show is an adaptation of a BBC series of the same name, reports Yahr -- herself a direct descendant of Adam and Eve.

Kudrow and producing partner David Bucatinsky explained the rigors of casting the show: they had to come up with a list of their own well-known friends. Starting March 5, you can watch Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, and Brooke Shields wading into their own gene pools.

Fortunately, all their friends have really interesting family trees. Brooke Shields, for instance, traced her roots and discovered she was descended from King Louis XIV. Yes, Brooke Shields will now be even more insufferable than before -- a literal royal pain.

With so many genealogy reality series on the TV firmament -- Henry Louis Gates's PBS show "Faces of America," National Geographic Channel's "The Genographic Project," NBC's Kudrow project, to name a few -- it's all Yahr can do to keep them straight. Bucatinsky pointed out helpfully that Gates's show in particular has a scholarly feel, while "Who Do You Think You Are?" has a tone that, "felt like it was more of a personal, emotional journey than necessarily one that was academic."

But both Bucatinsky and Kudrow assured Yahr and others on the call that "Who Do You Think You Are?" will not exploit their already paparazzi-harried celebrity BFF's.

"We're not looking to make anyone cry," Kudrow promised.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 16, 2010; 7:42 PM ET
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