Every Family Has a Secret

Imagine, for a moment, the horror of discovering your father was a Nazi war criminal…. how would you sleep at night faced with the truth of a long hidden family secret?

That’s the fear Perth’s Angela Hamilton is facing as she embarks an ancestral discovery in the new SBS series, Every Family Has a Secret.

In each of the three episodes six Australians, some of whom are well-known, will learn about hidden chapters in their family tree. Not only is this the natural successor to Who Do You Think You Are?, it’s from the same producers, Artemis Media.

Noni Hazlehurst is presenter and narrator, meeting cautious participants who explain their family circumstance, and catching up with some at the end. Like WDYTYA? there are historians, photos, documents and international locations involved as each subject steps back in time, as it were.

Angela Hamilton grew up to hate her father, who was anti-Semitic and beat her mother, and there are concerning family documents in her possession with links to World War II.

As Noni points out this quest may reveal “…not only good news but possibly bad news …are you prepared for that?”

Under the watch of documentary cameras Angela travels to Northern Transylvanian (which actually looks very picturesque!) in Romania and discovers he had a Jewish wife. Visiting his childhood home is emotional, but it won’t prepare her for the horrors of Doftana prison where he was tortured as a young man.

The format incorporates what I call “Meanwhile TV” as we pause the story to meet actor David Field, whom Noni worked alongside on City Homicide. The seasoned actor is relaxed about much in life, except for the bombshell that was revealed when he was 25 that his dad may not have been his biological father.

Not only does Field know the name of his potential true parent but he was school friends with the man’s son….

Field heads to Parkes, NSW seeking answers and undertakes a DNA test for a definitive answer.

The opening episode finds plenty of drama within its two narrative strands, particularly with Angela Hamilton’s family tale, and there are loads of magical drone shots of European vistas and roos hopping towards the dish in Parkes.

I could have done without the involvement of a prominent genealogy company in regards to Field’s DNA, but this aside, this is a strong start by a new, local format.

Most TV aim for a happy ending but while Every Family Has a Secret may not always reach that conclusion, you have to admire the bravery of the participants, when many of us would probably say “leave it in the past.”

If you’re a fan of Who Do You Think You Are? this is right up your alley.

Every Family Has a Secret begins 7:30 tonight on SBS.

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