Faded stars never die, they just become . . . blind dates?

In an irreverent twist on the hackneyed blind date show, E! Entertainment Television is pairing wanna-be lovers with celebrities of yore with Star Dates.

Beginning Dec. 15, viewers can follow Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster from The Munsters), Jill Whelen (little Vicki on Love Boat), Dustin Diamond (Screech from Saved by the Bell), Gary Coleman (Diff'rent Strokes), Kim Fields (Facts of Life) and comic grand dame Phyllis Diller as they brave blind dates with civilians who only learn of their dates' identities when they show up.

The pairs are shuttled around LA by chauffeur comics Jordan Black and Todd Carroll.

"Having celebrities going out with real people is a kind of wish fulfillment," says Kary McHoul, E!'s vice president of development. "You've watched them on TV for years, and now you have a date with them.

"At the same time, it's a level playing field. Dating is tough no matter how famous you are - and some of these stars have really bad dates."

The premiere episode features Patrick, now 49, who makes a living doing personal appearances and hosting Macabre Theatre, a horror-movie show on KDOC-TV in Irvine, Calif. Patrick explains that his last relationship screeched to a halt after six years when his significant other fell asleep at the wheel and drove the car into the Los Angeles River.

Enter Lisa Marie Bolick, a randy antiques dealer, and the sparks fly.

She: "Butch is a really cool guy who's easy to talk to."

He: "She has incredible breasts. Wouldn't it be great to have an affair with that." (Who says stars aren't sensitive?)

A subsequent date with an attitude-challenged flower child fared less well. Patrick knew he was in trouble when she announced a fear of Ferris wheels.

"I'd never been on blind date in my life," says Patrick. "I figured I could handle it as long as the end result wasn't a field day at my expense."

"It's pretty tough. They were 12-hour dates," he added. "We weren't supposed to talk to each other when the cameras weren't rolling, which is really difficult when you're sitting around and chatting, and there are lots of retakes.

"Then there was the awkward hot tub incident. . ."

Sorry, you'll just have to watch.

E! bought the show idea from Real World producer George Verschoor, then gathered a 40-member team of talent coordinators, producers and development executives who spent weeks locked in daily meetings pouring over magazines, TV books and celebrity databases.

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