According to Davina McCall, Long Lost Family might be the most universally beloved show she’s ever been involved with.
She once told The Express: “Programmes I present often polarise people, especially something like Big Brother, where people go ‘I loved it’ and others ‘I hated it.’
“There’s nobody who doesn’t like Long Lost Family. We went to the Baftas and I can’t tell you the number of famous people who came up to me and said, ‘Oh my God, I love it.’”
So, the tear-jerking series, which reunites people with their long-lost relatives, is clearly a winning formula, but that doesn’t mean the makers don’t occasionally tweak it.
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Usually, the stories focus on adoption, but in April this year, Long Lost Family Special: Shipped to Australia aired, which saw Davina and Nicky Campbell reporting on the scandal of thousands of British children who were sent Down Under in the middle of the century.
It was followed last month by Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace, which helped people who were abandoned as babies to finally uncover the truth about their origins.
Now, we’re getting Long Lost Family Special: Switched at Birth, which explores the remarkable story of Rosemary Rawlins.
Even though she doesn’t know how or when she first heard the story, 77-year-old Rosemary has always believed that she was switched with another baby in Weymouth during a Second World War air raid.
Her parents died early so she was never able to ask them more about it, but after a DNA test with her niece confirmed that she wasn’t genetically related to her family, she turned to the Long Lost Family team for help in solving the mystery. The search presents an ethical challenge – if Rosemary was switched, there’s a strong possibility that the team will have to break some difficult news to someone out there who has no idea that she’s not who she thinks she is. However, it is eventually decided that Rosemary has a right to know her identity.
DNA reveals connections to one particular Weymouth family and, with the support of the show’s team, they agree to further testing to find out the truth. Nicky is there to hear about what the revelations mean to the people involved.
The programme also finds out what it’s like for mothers who find themselves in this situation, which most people would probably think is the stuff of soap operas rather than real life.
Davina heads to Sicily to meet Marinella and Gisella, who, following a chance encounter at the nursery gates 20 years ago, realised they had spent three years bringing up each other’s daughters.
For Gisella, the girl who she had taken home from the hospital, bonded with and taught to walk and talk was her child, no matter what the DNA might say. However, Marinella felt a strong pull to the little girl who looked so like her and her other daughters and was biologically hers.
Davina discovers how the two families turned to child psychologists and the courts for help in resolving this seemingly impossible situation, and discovers that although it was painful, the story does have a happy ending.