TV That Never Was – Family Forensics UK

Reality TV dominates in our TV schedules. It’s cheap to produce and countless millions watch with a devotion akin to mania. Sometimes, however, it can get it wrong. Very very wrong.

Family Forensics UK had a relatively simple premise. Each episode was to see a family “win” a holiday at the start of the show without knowing that they were on TV. The family would then go away for a week whilst another family member who was “in” on the show would leave a key with the production company and give them full access to the house for a week.

Once in the house the team was allowed to look through personal belongings, computer files, search histories, photos, financial records, and household rubbish. Pretty much you name it and they would be looking through it.

The team would also be allowed to take swabs, DNA samples, finger prints, and anything else they wanted to. Now there is a massive question here about privacy and consent that you’d think would have been the reason that this show only ever aired one episode. You would, however, be wrong.

The idea was that once the family returned from their holiday the team of experts would be able to offer them insights in to their lives and would see how accurate a picture they built up. The family would, presumable, be very happy to find that during their week away total strangers looked at their most personal of information because one of them said it’s okay…

In November 2005 the first episode aired to surprisingly little public backlash give the very controversial subject matter.

However within 2 days the show was cancelled and the remaining 9 episodes would never see the light of day in their original form and TV Network Living TV would lose nearly three quarters of a million quid.

The reason it was cancelled so abruptly? One of the shows Private Investigators, who had been given full access to each families home, found himself convicted of six counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child. What’s worse is that the man in question had already served time for similar offences plus was also carrying a conviction for carrying a knuckle duster.

Living TV said in a statement: “It has come to our attention that Michael Brown, the private investigator on its programme Family Forensics, was convicted of offences involving children on 17 October 2005. Due to the serious nature of these offences and out of respect and to protect the families involved, Living TV took the immediate and difficult decision not to transmit the rest of the series.”

The statement added that the production company who made the show had appointed Brown “in good faith”.

“Clauses were included in Michael Brown’s contract which required him to notify us of any information relating to his professional or personal conduct. Michael Brown did not inform us of any criminal charges or convictions against him. At no time was Michael Brown in direct contact with the family members involved in the making of the show. We would like to offer our regret if the transmission of episode 1 has caused any offence.”

Now whilst Living TV argued that he should have told them I’d say surely it should be on them to thoroughly vet someone who was allowed to work with sensitive personal information? It was a pretty big mistake that certainly cost them a lot of money.

The show was completely re-filmed in 2006 but by then the damage was done and no one tuned in.