The TV programme 'Who Do You Think You Are' was back with a huge hit last Thursday night. EastEnders actor Danny Dyer was the subject of the popular ancestry show and what a show to start the new series with. The programme unfolded in usual fashion, giving us the subject's background and where he comes from; chats with family elders threw in the family myths for later scrutiny and then ... bam!! we were off on a roller coaster ride through English history.
The journey was made all the more enjoyable with Danny's infectious cockney rhyme and slang talk, though at times seeming to be thought before spoke, it was never the less engaging and absolutely priceless on the occasions he let it loose on the obligatory academics and experts. 'They've hit him for severe readies' he intoned to one expert, as he was informed of the demise of one particular ancestor's wealth .... 'severe readies' the expert solemnly repeated clearly having trouble with the unfamiliar slang. He went onto inform the prim academic in Hampton Court Palace "You could have a right rave in here babe" and so on and so forth, in a programme full of quotable gems. These will surely go down in WDYTYA history as legend moments.
Whilst the entertainment factor was set to maximum courtesy of the subject himself, the programme did not disappoint in content. From the work houses of the East End, where a clearly distressed Danny was sad to learn that his Great Grandparents had not actually run a work house, as family lore had it, but had actually been inmates. "Being poor is their crime" he observed holding the emotion in check. Then on through a story ever more dazzling, as each step back in time was discovered. His wish to discover a strong leader in his lineage was granted, as the story of his English Civil War Cavalier Colonel ancestor unfolded, the delight on his face as he was regaled with the Colonel's exploits was a joy to watch.
At this point both the subject and his audience would have been forgiven for thinking that this was as good as it got. Particularly as we were informed that the said great Colonel was hit "for severe readies" and lost his wealth, but no WDYTYA was not finished with us; greater heights of the genealogical mountain range were to be scaled. And what a view once atop, the panorama burst into view and the big names just kept coming - Thomas Cromwell, whose Essex Coat of Arms Danny was beside himself with, and then the 'crowning glory' of the episode with Danny holding a scroll in Westminster Abbey, slowly unfolding the document to reveal his ancestor as the Plantagenet Kind Edward III of England. He was blue blood, with HRH King Edward being his 22nd times Great Grandfather. Clutching his royal credentials tightly, Danny was off home to show the family, in the process soliciting the help of his son to order the camera crew off his 'manor'.
This has to rate as one of the best WDYTYA episodes ever and sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the series; however the episode does demonstrate just how exciting your past might be and if you never look you'll never know. Even if you don't have a regal heritage, the ancestors you do find will still have a story - the story of you!