We’ve Been Watching: We Are Family

by Lynn Connolly

we are family

When I first tuned into this new series, I thought it was probably going to be a Jeremy Kyle-esque affair, but fortunately, the very pleasant country house the estranged family assembled in didn’t really scream ‘Chavs Welcome’ so that was a relief.

And the members of the Minchew family – who hadn’t been on speaking terms for donkey’s years and weren’t at all chavvy – assembled with an air of apprehension that was almost palpable. But quite why they decided to have a camera crew witnessing the opening of cans of worms, and cats let out of long overdue bags is a bit of a mystery.

As I said, the family haven’t had much, if anything, to do with each other for a long time, but one of the eight siblings – same mum, a total of three different dads – Stewart, wanted his brothers and sisters to get together to do some hatchet burying. And unlike Jeremy Kyle’s clientele, not in each other’s heads.

Stewart had developed oral cancer, and as brushes with one’s own mortality are wont to do, it made him reassess his life and those who’ve played a part in it. He wanted to heal old wounds with those he spent his – very sad at times – childhood with.

And for all families, that idiom about not being able to choose them means that we’re often tied to people by genetics and commonalities, which, had they not existed, would make us think ‘I don’t care if I never see this person again.’ That applied to several of the Minchew siblings for a variety of reasons, but all of them were sad stories.

For example, one – and seemingly almost the only – happy memory most of them had of their childhoods was of their step-father Harry. From what all the family said of him, he was a decent, kind and very caring man who treated all the children as if they were his own. But one of the children, Noel, took advantage of his generosity, and it cost Harry his hard earned home.

It seems that recovering alcoholic Noel borrowed money using Harry’s house as surety, and because the business he started up with the proceeds went the way of the pear, Harry lost his house. Quite aside from the obvious sin of doing that, Noel had never said sorry to Harry, and that galled his siblings, not unreasonably. And to add insult to injury, he apparently never made any attempt to pay Harry back.

This was just one of the many, many unresolved issues facing this family. Others included being treated unkindly as children and two of them revealing that they’d been forced to sleep rough in public toilets before they were eventually taken into care.

It was easy to see how animosities have festered away over the years for this family, but though some harsh words were intimated and actually said sometimes, overall, one got the impression that the majority of them – though not all the Minchew siblings turned up – wanted to put those old wounds aside and use what time they might all have left to be a part of a cohesive family unit.

Towards the end, some apologies were forthcoming, though in some instances, I felt they lacked the sincerity necessary to be truly meaningful, so I guess it remains to be seen whether Stewart’s wish of reuniting his family comes to fruition long term. It’d be interesting to see them all again in a year’s time, just to find out if their newly applied familial glue took or not.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.