My perfect match
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
Holly and her husband Dan bypassed the dating scene Cilla’s
role was one Holly dreamed of