My per­fect match

TV Times - - Interview - Meet the Par­ents

en­ter­tain­ment aving al­ready suc­cess­fully re­vived feel­good favourite Sur­prise Sur­prise, Holly Wil­loughby has of­ten men­tioned that she’d also love to bring back the late and leg­endary Cilla Black’s other hit ITV series, Blind Date.

So Holly’s un­der­stand­ably just a teensy bit ex­cited about get­ting to fol­low in her idol’s foot­steps again by land­ing her very own dat­ing series, Meet the Par­ents.

‘I love any­thing to do with dat­ing, match­mak­ing and love,’ en­thuses Holly, 35, when we meet at ITV’S Lon­don HQ. ‘I love Take Me Out and I was a mas­sive fan of Blind Date. It’s great when you do a show that, if you weren’t mak­ing it, you’d be watch­ing it.

‘It’s on in the Blind Date slot, so it’ll have a bit of a twin­kle but it will be fam­ily view­ing.’

The show, which starts this Satur­day, sees Holly put the ro­man­tic fates of sin­gle­tons into the hands of their mums and dads, as po­ten­tial suit­ors quiz them about their sons and daugh­ters.

She tells us no ques­tions are out of bounds and that par­ents have been busy spilling

Hthe beans on ev­ery­thing from re­la­tion­ship his­tory and groom­ing habits to celebrity crushes. While the par­ents are be­ing quizzed, the guys and girls hop­ing to be cho­sen will see and hear ev­ery­thing. And if mum and dad look set to re­veal too much, they’re al­lowed one emer­gency phone call to stop them in their tracks.

‘Based on these few ques­tions, the suit­ors then de­cide which of the po­ten­tial dates they want to go out with. And they im­me­di­ately go on that date. They go straight into a car that will take them to our Meet the Par­ents res­tau­rant, which is rigged with cam­eras,’ says Holly.



This isn’t Holly’s first foray into TV dat­ing shows. In 2007 she hosted a revival of Dav­ina Mccall’s Street­mate on ITV2, and also joined forces with best mate Fearne Cot­ton to front ITV series Holly & Fearne Go Dat­ing. Were there any suc­cess sto­ries?

‘No, sadly, no­body stayed to­gether. I’m hop­ing I have more luck with the dates on Meet the Par­ents,’ says Holly, adding that out­side of work she had some suc­cess set­ting up a school­friend’s mum in a re­la­tion­ship that lasted six years. ‘A cou­ple who got to­gether on the pi­lot, filmed in Fe­bru­ary, have only just split up, so that was quite good go­ing. I just hope we haven’t used up all our to­kens on the pi­lot and that there’ll be some who get to­gether now!’ Away from the cam­eras, the Brighton-born pre­sen­ter is hap­pily loved-up with her hus­band of nine years, TV pro­ducer Dan Bald­win. They’re par­ents to five-year-old daugh­ter Belle and sons Harry, seven, and Ch­ester, two.

But if Meet the Par­ents had been around when she was sin­gle, would she have taken part? ‘Not a chance!’ she laughs. ‘There’s just no way be­cause the po­ten­tial for my par­ents to say any­thing that might be… I just wouldn’t!’

Holly be­lieves that dat­ing has changed since her days of court­ing.

‘It’s weird be­cause Dan and I never re­ally dated,’ she says. ‘We were good friends first and, be­cause we were work­ing to­gether, we kept it a se­cret when we got to­gether. So we never got that op­por­tu­nity to go out for din­ners or do stuff like that.

‘Dat­ing is such a scary mine­field now, with on­line dat­ing and pro­files. There also seems to be a lot more choice; it’s a lot more ruth­less.

‘Fun­nily enough, I think that’s why Meet the Par­ents works,’ she re­flects. ‘It’s the an­ti­dote to those fast, vis­ual im­ages, as you get to know a bit about the per­son.’

On Meet the Par­ents, the mums and dads let slip lots of em­bar­rass­ing rev­e­la­tions about their kids. Have Holly’s folks ever left her sim­i­larly red-faced?

‘No, my par­ents are quite good,’ she smiles. ‘I think my sis­ter Kelly had it worse than I did be­cause I’m the youngest. She quite of­ten says to me: “I paved the way for you, I had to fight for ev­ery­thing!”

Holly wil­loughby on why she couldn’t wait to play Cupid for her new

show Meet the Par­ents, and her own se­cret celebrity crushes…


‘But i had two-to-three­year re­la­tion­ships, so I didn’t have a long line of men com­ing through my house. So I think my par­ents got off quite lightly, too!’

Holly has yet to em­bar­rass her own chil­dren, how­ever.

‘That time is prob­a­bly com­ing!’ she laughs. ‘It’s handy, as you can get kids to do things if you say: “I’m go­ing to re­ally em­bar­rass you now!”’

We meet Holly on a sunny Septem­ber day just af­ter she’s fin­ished work host­ing This Morn­ing. She’s even pret­tier in the flesh (yes, se­ri­ously!) and we get to­tal wardrobe envy over her beau­ti­ful white shirt with a navy horse print, paired with dark jeans.

She’s on fine form, too, and is soon hap­pily chat­ting away about how she finds life as a work­ing mum.

‘Whether you’ve got one child or three, you’re jug­gling the same thing re­ally, just more balls,’ she says. ‘It’s fine as I’m re­ally good at keep­ing that work/life bal­ance in check.’

As one of our most in-de­mand pre­sen­ters, though, does this mean she of­ten turns work down?

‘Some things,’ she says. ‘You can’t do ev­ery­thing. It means that things that I do, I re­ally want to do, which is a lovely po­si­tion to be in. If you’re go­ing to spend time away from your

Satur­day / itv / 7.00Pm

Holly and her hus­band Dan by­passed the dat­ing scene Cilla’s

role was one Holly dreamed of

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