Blind Date is a British dating game show first produced by London Weekend Television. An unscreened pilot was made with comic Duncan Norvelle as presenter but it was eventually hosted by Cilla Black, who already hosted the LWT series, Surprise Surprise.
Blind Date originally ran on Saturday nights from 30 November 1985 to 31 May 2003 on ITV.
The show returned in 2017 on Channel 5. The new series began airing on 17 June 2017 in its usual Saturday night slot and is produced by So Television and Stellify Media, a firm part-owned by Sony Pictures Television. Paul O’Grady presents the revived series.
The show had a format similar to the show known in Australia as Perfect Match or in the US as The Dating Game. Three singles of the same sex were introduced to the audience. They were then asked a question by a single individual of the opposite sex, who could hear but not see them, to choose with whom to go on a date. Before the decision Our Graham (replaced in the final ITV series by Tommy Sandhu), who was never seen, gave an amusing reminder of each contestant. The couple then picked an envelope naming their destination. The following episode showed the couple on their date, as well as interviews with them about the date and each other. Locations ranged from Bognor Regis or a date in an ice cream factory, to Anguilla or the Maldives.
In the final series (2002–03), the format was tweaked; the “Ditch or Date?” twist was added to the show. Also, a behind-the-scenes companion show, called Blind Date: Kiss & Tell was produced for ITV2 and hosted by Sarah Cawood and Brendan Courtney.
In 2003, the show was broadcast live to try to improve dwindling ratings.
A pilot, as It’s a Hoot!, was shot in early 1985 and fronted by comedian Duncan Norvelle. John Birt, LWT‘s director of programmes, and the IBA regulatory body had reservations about Norvelle’s camp style. Black had seen The Dating Game in the US and enthused about it to LWT’s Alan Boyd, who produced Surprise, Surprise and who made the Norvelle pilot. After two pilots starring Black, the series was commissioned. Thelma Pickles, an old girlfriend of John Lennon, worked as a producer on the show. The distinctive theme music for Blind Date has a strong resemblance to the jazz standard “Soft Winds” and was composed by Laurie Holloway.
At the height of its popularity in the 1980s, 18.2 million tuned in on a Saturday night. Black’s scouse accent and her catchphrases became familiar throughout the United Kingdom. The show won the Lew Grade Award at the British Academy Television Awards in 1995. The first episode of Series 17, on 10 November 2001, was reportedly watched at 19:00 GMT by seven million viewers – 32% of the audience. Although, this was around a million fewer than tuned in to its debut episode in the previous series. This was likely to state that its popularity was on the wane. Black was responsible for ITV shifting its football programme, The Premiership, to make way for the new series in a prime-time slot. The broadcaster reportedly gave in to Black’s ultimatum “move the Premiership football programme or I quit”.
Viewing figures declined to 5 million by 2003. The final episode in May 2003 was seen by 2.9 million viewers.
The series ended in 2003 when, during an episode on 4 January 2003 (the first to be broadcast live), Black announced she was quitting the show. The production crew had not been told. A change in the show’s format was one of the factors in her decision to leave the show. Production was halted after the series ended; Trisha Goddard, Dale Winton and Paul O’Grady were to be in line for her replacement but the show was later cancelled. ITV had been refused permission to make changes to the format by Columbia, the US company which owned Blind Date at the time.
Blind Date featured celebrities before they became well known. These include:
- Mark Speight (1989)
- Amanda Holden (1991)
- Ed Byrne (1993)
- Jenni Falconer (1994)
- Ortis Deley (1995)
- Nikki Grahame (2003)
- A Comic Relief sketch in 1993 had Mr Bean on the show. The sketch featured Rowan Atkinson as Bean, Barbara Durkin as Bean’s date Tracy, and Cilla Black. The other contestants were played by Alan Cumming and Paul Opacic.
- A 2002 celebrity Christmas edition featured Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Alex Sibley (2002)
During the show’s history, three Blind Date weddings took place and were watched by millions of television viewers. Black was a guest at the weddings.
- Sue Middleton & Alex Tatham (1991) – met on the show in 1988, married in October 1991 and celebrated 25 years together in 2013. They appeared as mystery guests on The Big Fat Quiz Of Everything 2019.
- Lillian Morris & David Fenson (1994) – they married in February 1994 in Tiverton, Devon.
- Anna Azonwanna & Paul Pratt (1998) – met on the show in September 1993 and married October 1998 in Barbados. The other couples also attended the wedding with Cilla.
A contestant named Nicola Gill came on the show, claiming she was a temporary secretary, when she was actually a journalist for Cosmopolitan Magazine. When Black found out about this, she exploited the truth on the show, leading Gill to get booed by the audience, and her date to go away in total shock. Her date was later brought back on a different episode and offered a second chance, but as the one choosing from the three girls (as well as going on the holiday to Nepal by himself).