Dating can be daunting in your teens — but looking for love in your forties and fifties can be a truly terrifying prospect. This week, however, Davina McCall is playing Cupid for a group of single parents, who’ve been nominated by their grown-up children for a second chance at love in ITV1’s brand-new relationship reality show My Mum, Your Dad.
Every weeknight for the next two weeks, viewers will be able to watch love blossom (hopefully!) as eight single parents, from across the UK, live together at a stunning country house retreat in the hope of finding ‘The One’.
But there’s a twist - the parents are unaware that the kids will be watching their relationship journeys unfold from ‘The Bunker’, a surveillance room where they’ll get to help decide their mum or dad’s dating fate.
Here Davina tells us why love can begin at 40…
The show has been dubbed ‘Midlife Love Island’. Is that accurate?
"That’s my fault - I called it ‘Midlife Love Island’ in an email to ITV because I believed passionately in this idea of exploring midlife love on TV but it’s really not the same show. There are so many 'second time around-ers' in their Forties and Fifties, who have grown-up kids, who’ve maybe lost someone or been unsuccessful in relationships time and time again and who are now emotionally scarred. Life’s complicated and this show explores the baggage we bring to dating at that age."
How are the mums’ and dads’ children involved?
"The kids have nominated their parents, which is what gives this show the extra heart. Many of the kids drove their parents to the retreat and there was that sweet role reversal thing where they'd say: 'Don't stay up too late' and 'Make sure you behave' before they left. That dynamic is brilliant - then there’s the amazing twist that the children become the relationship experts…"
How does this work?
"A lot of my job was to be in the ‘surveillance room’ with the kids, watching what their parents were going through, and to talk through any decisions they might make about what their parent should do. They were extremely fair, magnanimous, kind, thoughtful and supportive of each other - but would also fight for their parents when necessary, too."
Tell us more about one of the dads, widower Roger…
"Oh, the nation is going to fall in love with Roger. What I love about Roger is that he always slightly says the wrong thing and will often overshare, saying things like: 'I use my toothbrush to brush the dog's teeth'... when he’s on a date! I find it really moving that, as a child, you can't move on with your life until you feel your parent is happy and how hard that must be. By being on the show, Roger’s daughter Jess was telling her dad: ‘I want you to find somebody, I'm giving you my blessing’."
With the kids watching their parents’ every move, there must be some cringeworthy moments…
"Yes, there are moments where the kids have got cushions in front of their faces. But it could be over something quite small and intimate because these kids have never seen their parents in a dating situation. Fortunately, there are no cameras in the bedrooms!"
The show airs every weeknight for two weeks - any teasers for later episodes?
"In episode two, we’re talking about intimacy and love and it triggered something in Monique that was incredibly painful and she had to leave the room. Monique is terrified of letting someone in and being rejected. That crisis of confidence doesn't get any better as you age - sometimes you can rationalise it more, but it's still there."
Did you ever feel you wanted to intervene when watching from ‘The Bunker’?
"Totally. I’d often want to run in and give someone a pep talk but the producers would say: ‘No, we’ve got to let it play out!’ This is one of those great shows where when you just leave it alone a bit, great things happen."
Is it really possible to fall in love in two weeks?
"I thought it was a lot to ask but there's a thing about being with somebody 24/7, you're older, you've got life experience and you've gone through so many bad relationships, so you know if something's working or not. It’s unbelievable what happens on this show in two weeks. But there are no ‘evictions’ and there’s no cash fund at the end - on this show the prize is love."
Why is My Mum, Your Dad such an important show for you?
"It’s a dream come true to walk onto a primetime TV show and see my people; a bunch of mid-lifers, who are really good fun and who are all at a point in their lives where they want to find love. It’s about having someone to come home to each night. Everyone deserves that."
My Mum, Your Dad starts on Monday September 11 and airs every week night at 9pm on ITV1