Duncan Norvelle (as It's a Hoot!, unaired pilot)
Cilla Black (1985-2003)
Paul O'Grady (2017-)
Graham Skidmore (1985-2002)
Tommy Sandhu (2002-3)
LWT for ITV, 30 November 1985 to 31 May 2003 (356 episodes in 18 series)
Blind Date: Kiss & Tell: LWT for ITV2, 12 October 2002 to 31 May 2003
Channel 5, 2017
This show was every media students dream for two reasons. First, because it was so great to analyse. Did you spot the way which Cilla patronized the females but didn't to the males? Did you notice how Cilla made huge points about how good people looked, when ironically the contestants couldn't actually see each other? Ah, hurrah for feminist theory, dominant ideologies and the Frankfurt School!
Second, because it was the easiest way of getting onto television in prime time, more of which in a moment.
But first, let's chip away at the show itself. Everybody's collective Mum Cilla Black played matchmaker to three girls and one guy (and later, three guys and one girl). After introducing us to each of the three girls, each "looking for love", we were introduced with the "lucky fella" who would be going on a date with one of the said three females. He asked three questions and the females replied as best they can. Made up example:
Questioner: "I really like crisps. If you were a crisp flavour, which one would you be?"
Contestant 1: "Curry flavoured, because I like to be hot AND spicy!"
Subtext: "Pick me and we'll have sex."
Contestant 2: "Beef flavour, because I like a man with some meat!"
Subtext: "Pick me and we'll have sex."
Contestant 3: "Obvious really, tomato sauce flavour because when you pick me I'll be getting saucy with you!"
Subtext: "Pick me and we'll go on holiday. And have sex."
And so it went on for two more questions. But, just before the final decision had to be made, in came "Our Graham" (the voice-over man) to sum up the three girls with something like:
"Well, will you pick number one, she's hot and spicy but promises not to give you a bad case of halitosis. Or will you pick number two who likes a bit of meat, maybe you should take a butchers! Or will you pick number three who wants to get saucy with you but also has a strange aversion to chickens. The choice... is yours!"
The player now had to dig deep and decide which of the lucky girls was going to be going on a date with him, but not before he got to see the two he turned down. Cilla rubbed this in... "and how could you turn down Number two, the lovely Claire from Bradford?" But then it was the moment of truth, the screen was taken away and the two got to see each other for the first time.
The winning couple got to go on a trip together. The location of the blind date was chosen by one of the couple drawing an envelope from several different ones provided (but see Trivia below). Then they left, happily, but then they came back next week to tell us about it.
The roles were reversed later in the show, so one girl picked one of three guys.
The other half of the show was about finding out how the dates from last week went. This was the funny bit of the show because more often than not it wasn't so much Blind Date but Blind Hate. The short film of the week tended to show their good sides, but it was the bit afterwards that was the funny part. The people were filmed talking about their partner retrospectively. This was viewed on the sofa in the studio and whilst one person was talking (read: bitching) about the other, that person's reactions were shown in a cutaway in the corner of the screen. This was the funniest moment of the show by far when they summed up at the end, the bloke will have said "I think I really love her and I hope we keep in touch" only for the woman to say "Well, I thought he was a bit of a prat really." Hilarity every time.
The show produced several marriages in its time, to which the telly cameras were always invited as was Cilla, who liked them because she got to buy a new hat.
Finally, it was well-known in the industry that many people used the show as a stepping stone to stardom, rather than as a serious attempt to find a compatible partner. And more than one newspaper journalist went on the show just for the purpose of getting the "inside scoop" story about the Blind Date Experience. Despite this minor controversy, it remained one of ITV "bankers" for Saturday nights.
But by 2002 ratings were falling, so they 're-energised' the show. Our Graham was dropped and the 'ditch or date' twist was added, explained by Cilla to the contestant as "Are you gonna date...or! Are! You! Going! To! Ditch!". Indeed. At this point Cilla seemed to realise the show was on its way out, and so at the beginning of 2003 she revealed on the show that she was quitting at the end of Series 18 in May (surprising the production team in the process, apparently). For a while ITV seemed confident that the show was going to continue with a new host, but in the end they gave up and replaced it with Love on a Saturday Night instead.
After it ended, Blind Date remained a fond memory. Revivals were discussed every so often, but they never came to series. Then in 2017, Channel 5 said they would give it a go, with Paul O'Grady the Liverpudlian to replace Our Cilla.
In 1998, the journey for one Blind Date was all planned, all the crew were ready to go and film it, everyone had their passports. There was just one thing missing, though. The girl never turned up. So, the bloke had to go to Africa on his own! Oh how we laughed when he drank wine with elephants! Oh how we split our sides when we saw him go on the plane, sitting next to a photo of his date! What was even funnier was watching Cilla Black trying to fill up the time in the interview!
Nicola Gill was rumbled as being a reporter for Cosmopolitan magazine undercover, and was going on the show as the basis for an article rather than as a genuine chance for romance. However, canny Cilla rumbled her in the studio the following week and sent her away with a flea in her ear. You go, girl!
Voiceover: "The choice is yours..."
Based on the Australian show Perfect Match, which was in turn derived from Chuck Barris' US format The Dating Game. Cilla recommended the format to LWT after seeing Perfect Match in Australia. However, Cilla was not the only entertainer with an interest in the format: according to his autobiography, Des O'Connor also saw the Australian show and pitched the idea to Philip Jones at Thames TV. Unfortunately Jones saw too many potential liabilities in the format (what if one of the contestants had an accident on a trip abroad? What if the "date" went too far?) and turned it down.
Composed by Laurie Holloway.
1985 opening titles, featuring a disturbingly blonde Cilla
About a year before 'Blind Date' began, an unaired pilot titled 'It's a Hoot!' (hosted by Duncan Norvelle) was filmed. It was never seen on television until 2004, when snippets of the show appeared in the Channel 4 documentary 'Who Killed Saturday Night TV?'
The choice was shown to be apparently random because some of the blind dates during the series were for exotic locations, and others were for a week in Skegness or similar. However, the envelopes containing the holiday locations all had the same place on them. Hence, the choice of dates was effectively "rigged", but for good reason - an entire film crew had to go on the dates with the couple, and this took some significant advance planning.
Kevin Ullah "did a Montague" by appearing on the show twice thanks to an alias and a disguise on the second programme.
Irish comedian Ed Byrne was on the show, obviously before he was famous but he could still hold an audience. However, his answers were a bit rubbish and he was beaten by a fitness instructor/stripper who may as well have started every sentence with "I'm a stripper". Les Dennis's ex, Amanda Holden, also appeared on the show.
The show featured as part of ITV's telethons in 1990 and 1992. In 1990, it became "Celebrity Dream Date", and in 1992 it was a special children's edition. In 1999, Cilla turned up on the BBC's Comic Relief Red Nose Day marathon to present a game with Lenny Henry choosing between Twiggy, Helena Bonham-Carter and Elle McPherson.