Header photo courtesy of Ian Nelson. Photo of the Browns courtesy of Jacob Johnson.
A new reality television series from BYUtv combines the powerful emotions of family history with the thrilling adventure of a cross-country competition.
Relative Race, set to air on February 28, 2016, follows four couples as they race from California to New York in ten days. Along the way, each couple must complete challenges that lead them to previously unknown relatives found by the science and technology of AncestryDNA. With only a paper road map and a flip phone, the teams must reach their relatives in a certain allotted of time. If they come in last, they receive a strike. After three strikes, the team is eliminated. The winning team will walk away with a $25,000 grand prize.
“This is a true reality show,” says the show’s host, Dan J. Debenham. “What I mean by that is this show was not scripted – we simply didn’t know where each day’s journey would take us. All we could do was keep the cameras rolling as we watched various stories unfold. The result is drama one minute, humor the next, lots of tears, fears, frustration and elation… but ALL the emotion you see is unscripted and often unexpected and I loved watching it all come together!”
One of the couples featured on the show are Brooke and Anthony Brown, pictured above. They’re both Las Vegas performers who got their submission in just hours before the deadline.
“The day I got the email was the last day for submissions, and Anthony was about to go to work. We quickly figured out how to use our selfie stick we had just bought and sat down and shot our submission video in one take before he went to work,” Brooke said.
For a family show about genealogy, the Browns didn’t realize just how competitive things were going to get. From the minute the competition started, it was clear they would need to be focused for every second if they wanted to stick around.
“You could not let your guard down, or you were going to get a strike. The competitive aspect of the show was much more intense than we were expecting. Believe me, we both have been competing our whole lives, but we really need a reason to push. Our reason was to try to meet all of our relatives.”
Meeting brand new relatives is one of the most unique aspects of the show. How did it work? The couples each used Ancestry.com’s AncestryDNA program, which provides a DNA test that ultimately can connect you to the other people in the AncestryDNA program who share your DNA. For the Browns, and especially for Brook whose mother was adopted, being able to connect with their roots was the most rewarding part of the experience.
“Being a part of a family means you are a part of something bigger than yourself. It is a connection with others and a place to belong. Finding out more about your family history opens you up to new relationships and experiences. Sure, you can live life without knowing these relatives, but knowing them may enhance your future,” Brooke said.
Though Dan was the host who kept the couples on their toes, the spirit of family history work wasn’t lost on him.
“My Dad is REALLY into genealogy. As a result I know quite a bit about the Debenhams. Still… for whatever reason, family history really hadn’t been that interesting to me. But being a part of Relative Race has really affected me – through the casting process for the show I was able to see how many people are yearning to discover family – how many people are searching for a deeper family connection,” he said. “Then, as we began filming I saw, first hand, how these couples reacted when meeting newly discovered family for the very first time. To be clear, every connection was not earth shattering. But many of them were deeply moving. To see grown men and women literally moved to tears as they connected with new found family was very powerful.”
Relative Race will premiere on February 28, 2016 on BYUtv at 8pm ET/6pm MT/5pm PT. You’ll also be able to stream it live or watch on demand at BYUtv.org and through BYUtv’s free mobile and tablet app. Our team at LDS Daily was given a sneak peek of the first episode and we’re giving it two thumbs way up. If you’re looking for a great, entertaining program for the whole family, make sure to tune in .