‘Celebrity Dating Game’ hosts Zooey Deschanel, Michael Bolton dish on the revamped classic

‘Celebrity Dating Game’ hosts Zooey Deschanel, Michael Bolton dish on the revamped classic

06/14/2021

A classic dating show gets a boost of star power on ABC’s “The Celebrity Dating Game.”

The game show, which debuted on the same network in 1965, returns Monday (10 EDT/PDT) with actress Zooey Deschanel (“New Girl”) and Grammy-winner Michael Bolton as hosts. Actors including Taye Diggs, Joey Lawrence and Carmen Electra, and comedians Margaret Cho, Chris Kattan and Gabriel Iglesias, are among the stars looking for love in the game that lets you get to know blind dates with saucy questions. As before, the celebrities’ identities are kept secret from their prospects until the potential pair meet. The contestants are given clues in the form of songs, performed by Bolton.

The show kicks off with former “Bachelorette” Hannah Brown and “Nailed It!” host Nicole Byer. The following week, rapper Iggy Azalea picks among a trio of bachelors she can’t see, as does “RuPaul’s Drag Race” judge Carson Kressley, a fan of the series who’s excited by the prospect of providing a jolt to his “nonexistent” love life. 

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"Fancy" rapper Iggy Azalea reviews questions as hopefuls Shaughn Adamski, Korey Davis and Eddie Williams vie for her affection. (Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC)

“I was gung-ho because I need to find a man, and I never turned down a television appearance,” he says. “So those two, in tandem, made me do it.” 

Like the other celebrities, Kressley wrote many of his own queries 

“Some of my favorite activities are skiing, horseback riding, playing tennis,” he tells contestants. “It’s a WASP-y triathlon of sorts. If you could come up with your own triathlon, what three activities would you combine to ensure you would win?” He also shares: “I love a man with a huge 401(k). How successful are you?”

“Who knows where one might find love nowadays?” he tells USA TODAY. “So I wanted to take it pretty seriously and write my own questions and have them be fun and funny and cheeky, but also really get to know the bachelors.”

TV personality Carson Kressley hoped to jump-start his "nonexistent" love life on "The Celebrity Dating Game." (Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC)

And while the celebrity and the winning contestant aren’t required to go on a date, Kressley says he thought to himself: “Oh, no. I flew all the way out here. I’m going to meet somebody, and we’re going to have an actual date.” No spoilers here, but the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” alum says he and the man he chose “are still in touch.”

Kressley jokes that he thought about choosing someone else after being so in awe of his clue song, performed to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” “It made me feel very special, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I’ll choose Michael Bolton!'” Kressley cracks. 

Bolton’s spoofed hits – in which he sings modified lyrics infused with tips to the stars’ identities –are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show. For Brown, Bolton borrows the tune of “I Found Someone,” referencing that infamous windmill where she and Peter Weber had sex four times during her “Bachelorette” season.  

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“It was a lot of work, because there were 16 songs that I needed to learn and sing, and they’re basically parodies,” Bolton says of the season’s clue-packed tunes, explaining he had to “unlearn the versions that I’ve been singing a thousand (times) over the years.”

But singing is what hooked the “Dating Game” fan on the new version of the game show, which last aired in 1999: “I thought, comedy and music, that’s the winning combination for me.

“But you have to have a good sense of humor about it,  because (they’re) pretty historical lyrical changes.”

As part of his co-hosting duties, Michael Bolton sings clue songs to help the contestants identify the mystery celebrity on ABC's new "Celebrity Dating Game." (Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC)

Deschanel compares the show to a sweet treat: “I would say it’s just super fun, like cotton candy. It’s just like watching people flirting, which is hilarious and fun; it’s definitely tongue-in-cheek.”

She says the fact that “people are trying to guess the celebrity is a really fun element to add, because there’s a lot of excitement on the part of the contestants. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m gonna go on a date with a celebrity! Who’s it gonna be?’

“Everyone’s a little bit nervous. It’s just fun to see that.”

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