Paul O’Grady only agreed to host Blind Date to stop the job going to a reality star
Paul O’Grady has said he is only hosting Blind Date to stop a reality TV star getting the gig.
The 61-year-old has replaced his late best friend, Cilla Black, as host of the classic dating show.
Ms Black hosted Blind Date for almost 30 years, from 1985 until 2003, with it pulling in huge audiences every Saturday night.
O’Grady has now revealed he originally turned down the show, telling the TVTimes: “I said no at first.
“I was very wary because Cilla’s so associated with it and it’s such an iconic show.
“I didn’t want to mess it up.
“Then I was terrified they were going to give it to some reality person to host, and it would be shunted to a late-night slot between programmes called Dogs On The Dole and My Left Breast.”
O’Grady and Black were famously close, and he delivered an emotional eulogy at her funeral.
He went on: “I told Channel 5 I don’t want any of the TOWIE lot or contestants that have been on telly before.
“There’s too much of that on TV now and I’m not interested.”
He recently filmed the first episode of the new series, yet to be aired, and had a tough time, frequently swearing and forgetting contestants’ names.
The Sun reports that after one blunder, he quipped: “How the f*** did Cilla do this for 25 years?
“No wonder she was on cocaine. God bless her, wherever she is.”
She had fronted the ITV dating show for nearly two decades, from 1985 until 2004, before settling into retirement.
When O’Grady announced he would be stepping into his late friend’s shoes as the host he said: “Blind Date is an incredibly special family show which brought laughter, tears and joy to TV viewers throughout out the land.
“I am honoured to present the brand new series and after speaking to Channel 5, I know the series is in safe hands. I can’t wait to see if we can find love.”
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Ben Frow, Director of Programmes for Channel 5, said: “The reaction to the news that Blind Date is returning has been phenomenal and demonstrated the depth of love and affection for the nation’s favourite dating show.
“Paul is the perfect choice to bridge the old and the new, capturing the essence and charm of a series that became staple Saturday night family viewing in living rooms up and down country, whilst attracting and appealing to a whole new generation of TV viewers.”
The new series will be the first to feature LGBT contestants.
Channel 5 said: “Whilst paying respect to the traditions and family appeal of the programme with the legendary sliding panel, three question format and live studio audience, Blind Date will be updated to reflect the present day, whilst maintaining the humour, charm and cheekiness of the original show.
“Blind Date will also welcome LGBT contestants for the first time and there’ll be thematic twists which will breathe new life into the series.”
Paul O’Grady recently condemned the culture of chemsex, saying young gay men who try to contract HIV are insulting the graves of those who died.