20/03/2017 11:13 GMT

Paul O'Grady Actually Turned Down 'Blind Date', But Changed His Mind For The Best Reason

He had initial reservations when Channel 5 approached him for the job.

Paul O’Grady has admitted he initially turned down the chance to front ‘Blind Date’, but changed his mind when he realised she would have found it hilarious.

The Liverpudlian comic was announced as the new host of the upcoming Channel 5 reboot of the classic dating show, taking over from his late best friend, who presented its entire original run from 1985 to 2003. 

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Paul O'Grady and Cilla Black

Speaking to The Mirror about succeeding Cilla in the role, he said: “When they asked me I said no, because it’s so firmly associated with Cilla.

“Then I had a think and I had a mental image of her sitting on the couch with
a glass of champagne, screaming with laughter.

“The producers said it felt like a natural progression and her son Robert said [Cilla]’d be over the moon, so I said ‘Yeah, go on, I’ll do it’.”

Paul also insisted the new series would honour Cilla’s memory, as well as remaining “true” to its roots of good, clean humour.

He said: “We’ll make references to Cilla because it was her show and to ignore her and say ‘Welcome to Blind Date’ as if it was new would be silly. Especially for me, we were so close. She’ll be hovering around, put it that way.”

A shake-up of the show will see LGBT+ contestants able to participate, unlike in the original ITV series, a move which Paul hailed as “brilliant”.

Cilla hosted 'Blind Date' from 1985 to 2003

Cilla’s son, Robert, previously spoke out to praise Paul’s casting, telling The Mirror: Mum would have been very happy. If there was anyone she’d have wanted to do it, it would be him. He’ll make it his own.

“With Paul at the helm, there’ll be a lot of laughter.”

It has also been rumoured Paul will be joined on ‘Blind Date’ by ‘I’m A Celebrity’ winner-turned-presenter Vicky Pattison, who Robert had previously been supportive of when she was first linked to the show. 

‘Blind Date’ launches on Channel 5 in the summer. 

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