CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: A handbag?

Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace  

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Comedians: Home Alone 

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The haughty Lady Bracknell’s reaction, when she discovers her future son-in-law was abandoned as a baby and found in a handbag at Victoria station, is the stuff of theatre legend. 

Even if you’ve never seen The Importance Of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, you will know the outraged shriek that greets this news: ‘A HANDBAG?!’ Good job Lady Bracknell was not around to see Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace (ITV). 

Both David and Helen, who grew up in adoptive families and were searching for their birth parents, had been left as babies in red tartan holdalls. 

David was dumped on the front seat of a car, with his head and toes sticking out of the bag, in Belfast in 1962. 

Pictured: David McBride with Davina McCall. David was abandoned as a baby but in this new documentary series a team combine the latest DNA technology with painstaking detective work, to enable four foundlings to finally uncover their identities

Pictured: David McBride with Davina McCall. David was abandoned as a baby but in this new documentary series a team combine the latest DNA technology with painstaking detective work, to enable four foundlings to finally uncover their identities

Pictured: David McBride with Davina McCall. David was abandoned as a baby but in this new documentary series a team combine the latest DNA technology with painstaking detective work, to enable four foundlings to finally uncover their identities

Six years later outside Dublin, Helen was discovered by a trucker in a phone box. Long Lost Family does love its big surprises, and this time presenters Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell had a humdinger. 

DNA tests proved David and Helen, though they’d never met, were brother and sister. 

More genetic sleuthing led researchers to the identity of their parents — a Dublin musician and the much younger, unmarried woman who was apparently his mistress for more than 30 years. 

The trail also led to 14 more half-siblings from the trumpet player’s marriage. But science couldn’t solve the nagging question of the red tartan holdalls. 

Why use identical bags? Perhaps the babies’ mother hoped that someday this clue would help her poor foundlings find each other. 

If so, what a wonderfully poignant touch. Or perhaps the musician liked to leave his signature, like a robber placing a leather glove at the scene of diamond theft. 

‘Aha, Watson, this must be the work of the accursed Tartan Trumpeter.’ Tracing the blood relatives of people whose birth certificates list both parents as ‘unknown’ is a new twist for this reliably emotional series, but the pattern is not very different from previous years. 

Nicky and Davina take it in turns to knock on somebody’s door, sit down at their kitchen table and pull documents or photographs from a brown envelope, like a conjuror doing a soulful card trick. 

Nicky Campbell (left) with Helen Ward Foundlings are people abandoned as babies, often in the first hours and days of their lives

Nicky Campbell (left) with Helen Ward Foundlings are people abandoned as babies, often in the first hours and days of their lives

Nicky Campbell (left) with Helen Ward Foundlings are people abandoned as babies, often in the first hours and days of their lives

We did get one unconventional moment, when Helen returned to the roadside in Dundalk where she was abandoned, to meet an elderly ex-truck driver named Donal. 

He described how he’d opened the phone kiosk to see a baby in a bag, with a bottle of milk still warm beside her. 

What was his reaction? ‘It was controlled panic,’ said Donal fervently. Controlled panic appears to be the response of BBC2’s comedy department under lockdown. 

Unable to host the usual low-budget panel games, they’ve asked the regulars to send in any old rubbish for a 15-minute sketch show, Comedians: Home Alone (BBC2). 

Rhys James reeled off some one-liners while peering around the shower curtain. His jokes weren’t funny but you couldn’t help noticing what a swanky bathroom he has. Or perhaps it’s his parents’ house. 

Bob Mortimer was funniest as The Train Guy, a big-mouthed yuppie spieling business jargon in a commuter carriage. 

But Bob’s been releasing these skits via the internet for months. Is that all BBC2 is now — a YouTube repeats channel? Apparently so. 

Married couple Rachel Parris and Marcus Brigstocke were lip-synching to pop songs, and cute cat pictures were used as filler between acts. 

I suppose a new generation of TV editors thinks this is how telly must work. They never watched it when they were growing up, of course, because they were glued to their phones. 

Ear-splitter of the week: Pity Liza Tarbuck. The actress told sculptor Grayson Perry, on his Art Club (C4), that her neighbour has been using an electric sander in his garden all through lockdown. We could hear the awful din as she spoke. Aaarghh! 

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