- Davina’s new dating show for middle-aged singles starts on 11 September
- READ MORE: Davina McCall, 55, admits drugs filled ‘a hole in her heart’ as she gets candid about addiction, grief, and her split from Matthew Robertson
Not long ago Davina McCall was thinking about retirement – or more accurately planning for when she’d be put out to grass.
‘In my 40s I assumed that television would have retired me by the time I was 50,’ she muses.
‘I did think maybe I would ease off and just disappear. But I’m happy to say television appears not to be ageist, and I’m still going.’
That’s one way of putting it. At 55, Davina is arguably more high profile than ever, both as a presenter and ‘accidental activist’ (her phrase), courtesy of her campaigning to raise the profile of the menopause.
Saturday night entertainment, quiz shows, genealogy shows, documentaries… she’s presented them all.
At 55, Davina McCall is back with My Mum, Your Dad, a new dating show which follows a group of single parents who have been nominated by their grown-up kids for a second chance at love
But it seems fitting that her latest offering places her squarely back in the territory in which she first found fame when, as a fresh-faced 30-year-old, she roamed the streets matching up singletons on Channel 4’s cult hit Streetmate.
A quarter of a century on, she’s matchmaking once more.
Across ten hour-long episodes, ITV’s My Mum, Your Dad follows a group of single parents who have been nominated by their grown-up kids for a second chance at love.
Sequestered in a country house, the candidates are, unbeknown to them, being watched from a nearby bunker by their children, who can step in to play matchmaker should they wish.
Davina is the reassuring host who shepherds both parents and offspring along the way.
‘You are going to love it,’ she declares. ‘It’s such a feel-good, warm show. All the people taking part have been nominated by their kids, and all of them have got big reasons to be there, some of which will break your heart.
‘There’s a lady who was widowed a year ago, and the fact her daughter has nominated her is her way of saying, “It’s OK to fall in love again.”
‘There’s a woman who’s been cheated on by every person she has ever been with, and one guy who just wants to meet somebody to hold hands with, he’s missed that connection. Everybody’s got a story.’
Heart-warming as this sounds, the show has been dubbed a ‘mid-life Love Island’ in some quarters and, indeed, ten singles shacked up together does sound like similar territory.
Not so, says Davina firmly, admitting the phrase makes her cringe – which is somewhat ironic as she came up with it.
‘It’s my fault,’ she acknowledges ruefully. ‘I wrote to ITV and suggested a programme like this and the best way I could describe it was a mid-life Love Island.
‘So I feel terribly responsible, because while Love Island is great, this is not that – it’s a different animal.
‘There are no cameras in bedrooms, no prize money, no huge social media contracts. It’s about finding love again and getting a second chance at life.’
Davina herself is a perfect example of this. In 2017, she announced her separation from Matthew Robertson, her husband of 17 years and father to her three children, Holly, 21, Tilly, 19, and 16-year-old Chester.
In 2019 she went public with her romance with hairdresser Michael Douglas, an old friend who she first met when he styled her hair during her Big Brother presenting days.
Davina has talked openly about finding love again with hairdresser Michael Douglas after her split from ex-husband Matthew Robertson
Michael recently moved into Davina’s £3.4 million Kent home, a new chapter in their relationship she says they didn’t rush into.
‘Michael and I didn’t live together for years, because our kids came first, and his kids were one place and my kids were another.
‘You have to put kids first, but what’s nice about being older is that you can do that.
‘When you’re looking to get married and have children, there’s an urgency to it; in mid-life you’re not rushing to get down the aisle.
‘I think lots of second chancers just want a calm, easy, loving relationship.’
It’s clear she’s found it, as anyone who listens to Making The Cut, the podcast she and Michael host together (billed as ‘like the Tripadvisor for your life’), can testify from their warm-hearted banter.
But that wasn’t what she necessarily expected from her own mid-life years.
‘I love it when I meet people that have been together all their lives,’ she says.
‘I love that bit in When Harry Met Sally when the old couples sit holding hands – that gives me such heart.
‘That didn’t happen for me, but I am lucky to have had a second chance, although I also have to say that being happy in mid-life isn’t based around relationships either.
‘I would have been completely happy on my own for years, so I also do a big shout out to any women or men who are alone and actually really enjoy it.’
There’s no doubt that Davina’s enjoying this new chapter, despite it coming with a bittersweet edge.
With her two eldest having moved away – Holly to go to university and Tilly to work in Australia – she’s dealing with, if not a fully empty nest, one that’s less busy than it used to be.
‘It’s a funny one. My feeling has always been, give your kids the confidence to leave home and experience the world, but when Holly went, that felt like a big loss.
‘The person I feel sorriest for is Chester, because now it’s me and him, and sometimes Michael and his boys.
‘I miss the carnage. At the same time I’ve got a couple of years left with Chester at home, so I’m going to enjoy that.’
The upside is that the maternal guilt has lessened. ‘They don’t need me as much, and I find myself throwing myself into work, not because I have to but because I love it,’ says Davina, who also co-presents Long Lost Family and will be appearing in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special.
‘At the end of a day of filming, I can stay and watch the footage and hang out with the crew, and not feel guilty. It’s such a lovely feeling.’
Davina pictured with partner Michael Douglas, an old friend who she first met when he styled her hair during her Big Brother presenting days
There’s also her campaigning work: Davina has become a champion for menopausal women, fighting for better understanding and medical provision.
She’s fronted two myth-busting documentaries and a year ago released Menopausing, which won Book Of The Year at this year’s British Book Awards.
‘I try to do what I think is right,’ she says. ‘I almost feel like it’s my duty to do a good PR job on mid-life.
Your 30s and 40s are the most stressful time in your life. You’re bringing up children, trying to get ahead in your job, trying to get on a property ladder.
But when you get to 50, you think, “How long have I got, and what do I want that to look like?”’
She certainly does look good: I can’t help but gaze at her glowing skin, sculpted cheekbones and shiny hair.
She’s had the odd backlash, with some accusing her of being ‘addicted to exercise’ or holding up an unrealistic goal for women struggling to juggle the many balls of mid-life.
Not long before our meeting, the actor Hermione Norris, who is only a few months older than Davina, gave an interview saying when she saw middle-aged women in their gym kits on Instagram it made her ‘want to reach for ten doughnuts’, adding it was ‘like trying desperately to hang on to something that’s gone’.
She didn’t mention Davina, but it isn’t hard to imagine she might have had her in her sights.
Naturally, Davina is far too nice to get into a war of words. ‘I totally respect Hermione saying that, because that’s what she wants to do – like let’s let go, let’s stop worrying about it so much – and there’s a lovely vibe to that,’ she says.
‘But I love feeling fit, it makes me feel really good, both for my mental health and energy. It makes me feel I’m alive.’
She snorts at the idea she might be overly devoted to her dumbbells. ‘Whenever anyone says that I tell them I do half an hour’s workout ideally four days a week, and quite often it’s only three because I’m working,’ she says.
‘People think I’m in the gym for hours every day and I’m really not. I’ve just been away with Michael to Ibiza for his birthday and we ate for Britain, we partied, and I didn’t do any exercise and I don’t worry about it.
‘I try not to weigh myself too often, because if I just carry on doing what I’m doing then that will just kind of regulate itself.’
She points out that many of us can now expect to live into our 80s and beyond.
‘My granny lived until she was 98,’ she says. ‘It’s about how we’re going to have the best quality of life if we’re going to live that long.
‘I don’t want to be housebound for 20 years. I want to be out walking in the hills or going somewhere.’
That granny was Pippy, the woman who raised Davina after her parents separated when she was three and her birth mother Florence returned to her native France.
She admits her MBE in the King’s birthday honours earlier this year was tinged with sadness as the three people closest to her were no longer around to see her receive it.
Pippy died in 2018. Davina’s half-sister Caroline passed away in 2012 at the heartbreakingly young age of 50 from lung cancer.
Last year her father Andrew died aged 77 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
‘Pippy would have been beside herself and my dad would have been so proud,’ Davina says.
‘And my sister would have fainted if I’d taken her to any kind of palace. But I’ve told all of them in my prayers.’
Happily, she was able to share the news with stepmother Gaby, who she credits with bringing stability to her childhood.
‘She was thrilled. And my kids were really happy for me, although I had to explain what exactly it was, which made me laugh.’
Davina hopes her new show is something that can help bridge that sometimes yawning generation gap.
‘I think kids will enjoy wondering how their parents would behave in the same situations they see on the show.
‘But it’s also a fascinating insight into how your parents behave when you’re not around, and the life your parents had before you,’ she says.
‘Understandably, children forget that. So I think it might lead to some interesting conversations.’
- My Mum, Your Dad starts Monday 11 September, 9pm, ITV1 and ITVX.
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