1 9 8 5 – 2 0 0 3 (UK)
356 x 30 minute episodes
With Surprise Surprise established and Cilla Black more bankable than she had been for years, the toothy Liverpudlian moved on to present a “lorra lorra laughs” on Blind Date – a Saturday evening show that owed much of its success to the fact that she never sang on it.
Produced by LWT – and with a format based on elements of the US show The Dating Game and an Australian show called Perfect Match – three unseen contestants delivered rehearsed answers to three scripted questions posed by a boy or girl looking for a date.
On the strength of their answers, one was chosen to accompany the questioner on a special trip.
This may have involved anything from a week on the Mediterranean to a day at a safari park, depending on their luck in drawing envelopes.
The following week, the blind daters returned to tell all about their experience and to give honest feedback about their unfortunate partners, while Cilla egged them on.
Having Cilla as the host proved an inspired choice. She came across as an affectionately curious aunt, able to feign genuine interest in her guests’ romantic fortunes and equally convincing disappointment when they failed to gel as a couple, as was often the case.
Another crucial ingredient in the show’s success was the voiceover announcer Graham Skidmore, known as “our Graham”, who would offer barbed one-line reminders of the contestants’ salient points prior to the final selection being made.
However, despite plenty of innuendo in both Graham’s remarks and the (pre-scripted) boasts made by the contestants about their appeal, the programme was firmly family-friendly, befitting its early evening slot.
The first couple to marry as a result of meeting on the show were Sue Middleton and Alex Tatham. Their 1991 wedding was captured in a special programme entitled Blind Date Wedding Of The Year.
Sadly the appeal of the show began to wear thin as the contestants’ carefully rehearsed ad-lib answers started to grate and the series wrapped after 18 years, during which time it regularly notched up audiences of around 15 million viewers.
Cilla Black took advantage of a one-off live edition on 4 January 2003 to announce her resignation – without warning the production team in advance. There had been plans to continue with a different presenter, but Cilla was deemed to be irreplaceable and the 18th series proved to be the final one.
Paul O’Grady revived the series in 2017.