Paul O'Grady has been announced as the new host of Blind Date when it returns to Channel 5 later this year. Taking the reins from his late friend Cilla Black, the chat show host will help a new generation of love-seeking contestants compete against each other to find their perfect match, while hiding behind the legendary sliding panel. In a statement, Paul commented: "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."
Paul O'Grady confirmed to replace the late Cilla Black as the new host of Blind Date
STORY: Cilla Black's sons pay tribute to late star at statue unveiling in Liverpool
Show bosses have said the revamped show will "pay respect" to the traditions of the original. The series will continue with the three question format and will have a live studio audience. It has also been confirmed that Blind Date will welcome LGBT contestants for the first time. Sean Doyle, Channel 5 Commissioner said: "When the show was last on screen in 2003, dating applications like Tinder didn't even exist. Social media platforms may have changed the rules of the game for millennials, but on Blind Date, you've still got to find the real life chemistry. The show respects its original traditions but there is a contemporary flavour to reflect the world today."
"I know the series is in safe hands," he said in a statement
STORY: Paul O'Grady 'destroyed' by friend Cilla Black's death
Original host Cilla, who died in August 2015 while she was on holiday in Spain, famously hosted the show on ITV before it was cancelled in 2003. It seems fitting for Paul, 61, to take on the role. He previously spoke about his close friendship with Cilla, telling HELLO!: "I feel lucky to have shared my life with her." The Liverpudlian, who was friends with the late star for 15 years, even read a eulogy at her funeral. At the time of her death, Paul said he felt "destroyed", telling Closer: "After anyone close to you dies, you're in a strange state for a while. I've withdrawn a bit and gone into myself. I just get on with my work. I'm not in the mood for partying put it that way."