Cilla to make comeback with TV dating show

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Cilla Black is making her return to TV with a new dating show, it was revealed today.

Black, 65, hosted ITV's Blind Date, which was watched by 17 million viewers at the height of its popularity in the 1980s, for 18 years.

The hit series ended five years ago when Black stunned bosses by announcing on the first live Blind Date that she was quitting the show.

Producers have billed Loveland as a dating show with a 21st century twist.

Hopefuls will hide behind real-time animated characters instead of the famous Blind Date screen in the studio-based show.

Contestants will select their date after interacting with the animated characters, before they meet the person they have chosen for real.

The winning couple's date will be designed to test whether their relationship is meant to last.

The 10-part series will be broadcast on Sky One next year.

Loveland comes as ITV is mooted to be lining up a new dating show, with X Factor star Simon Cowell said to have bought a share of the rights to Blind Date.

Black, who had to buy three hats for Blind Date weddings, said: "Loveland captivated me with its modern-day twist on the dating format, bringing something new and exciting to the genre."

She joked: "(The) unique animation may help couples find love and me the perfect hat."

Sky One said: "Who knows what's lurking behind the cartoon. Will they pick a real-life Jessica Rabbit or will they choose something more akin to the infamous Tasmanian Devil?"

Former singer Black became TV's highest paid female star, with the power to influence scheduling, thanks to the success of Blind Date.

Names like Davina McCall, actress Claire Sweeney and Paul O'Grady were named as possible successors when Black left, but the show was axed.

Sky One director of programming Richard Woolfe said: "Cilla is the undisputed queen of the dating show.

"There's been many pretenders to her throne, but she remains in a class of her own.

"I'm thrilled she shares my passion for Loveland and for bringing the dating show kicking and screaming into the 21st century."

Other Sky One shows announced today include the first post-watershed episode of The Simpsons.

Love Springfieldian Style, which has already been broadcast in the US, will be shown at 9pm and features Bonnie and Clyde and Sex Pistols parodies with drug references.

Sci-fi comedy Futurama, also created by The Simpsons' Matt Groening, returns after a five-year hiatus.

Other highlights include the fourth series of Ross Kemp On Gangs, when the former EastEnder infiltrates gangsters in LA, as well as Bulgaria and Belize.

In two TV specials, Kemp also goes to Kenya to meet one of the most dangerous gangs in Africa and orphans who live on a rubbish dump and are addicted to glue.

Previously announced shows include Wayne Rooney's search for undiscovered football talent, Gladiators, Hairspray: The School Musical, and Noel Edmonds in Noel's HQ and Are You Smarter Than A Ten-Year-Old?

Fearne Cotton and Ben Shephard front Guinness World Records Smashed!, where they invite the public to topple some of the world's toughest records.

Channels Sky One, Sky Two and Sky Three will also be getting a facelift in the autumn season and Sky One will be broadcasting Caprica, the two-hour prequel to Battlestar Galactica.