By Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/17/20 – After weeks of nail-biting over the 2020 Presidential Election (well, actually four years!), Fox Alternative Entertainment and Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television are twirling to the rescue with yet another competition reality television show to fill the airwaves: a spin-off of their successful two-season show, “The Masked Singer.” The popular show, which averaged 11.5 billion viewers each episode in season one, was the highest-rated non-sports programming in the United States and put a lot of bread and butter on Fox’s table. Its love child, named “The Masked Dancer,” is set to sashay into our living rooms with its first baby pirouettes on Sunday, December 27, 2020, at 8 P.M. Pacific Time. For fans of the mother show, don’t fret, “The Masked Singer” returns in 2021.

(Photo: Michael Becker/Fox)

James Breen, Craig Plestis, Dan Martin, and Ellen DeGeneres are executive producers of the new series, its parent being fashioned after “The King of Mask Singer,” a South Korean program created by Mun Hwa Broadcasting, part of the Masked Singer franchise which has different versions of the show in countries around the world. It seems we have Ellen DeGeneres to thank for “The Masked Dancer”; her show’s spoofs on “The Masked Singer” was a prototype of sorts for the new series.

Chicago-born Craig Robinson, the all-in-one actor, comedian, musician, and singer, known for his roles in “The Office” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will host the show, no doubt offering big laughs. Joining him will be four panelists: “Straight Up’s” Paula Abdul (yes, I do want to love you forever!); all-grown-up actor, rapper, and producer Brian Austin Green, famous for playing David on “Beverly Hills 90210”; stand-up comedian, actor, producer, writer, television personality, and licensed physician—there is a doctor in the house!—Ken Jeong; and “What I’ve Been Looking For,” Ashley Tisdale, looking spectacular. Go, team!
Los Angeles, CA – SEP 28: Craig Robinson attends the LA Premiere of “Dolemite Is My Name” at the Regency Village Theater on September 28, 2019 in Los Angeles CA. (Photo: CraSH/imageSPACE/MediaPunch /IPX)

The format of the new baby promises big-named celebrities dressed in over-the-top costumes and face masks to disguise their identities from the panelists and audience, just like the momma show. The celebrities will be accompanied by back-up dancers (also in costumes) as they attempt to master a wide range of dances, including jazz, tap, hip-hop, breakdancing—even the grace of ballet, to name a few. The teaser for the show promises that there will be “shocking surprises and insane moves—all with a twist.” Is that a twist as in Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”? You remember: “Come on and twist; Yeah, baby, twist; Ooh yeah, just like this; Come on, little miss; And do the twist; E-yah…”

The teaser, which can be viewed on YouTube, shows a combination of interesting to just plain weird costumes suited for children’s taste. But, aren’t most of us kids at heart? Viewing it reminded me of Dorothy’s famous line from The Wizard of Oz, “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!”  I think I saw a chicken or was it a rooster? I also saw a bug, and possibly a flower bud, or perhaps it was a vegetable? Craig Plestis, President and CEO of Smart Dog Media and one of the executive producers, stated during a meeting hosted by Jill Hudson Leuthe of Fox Entertainment that whoever might be under the masks will be “Someone who you never expected to dance, and it could be someone who you did expect to dance. So, anything is possible.” He went on to expound that a lot of celebrities want to be on the spin-off. A number of them have approached the producers, stating “My kids are big fans of ‘Singer.’ I want to be on ‘Dance,’ so let me come on and dance.”

Foxs’ ‘Masked Singer’ Spinoff ‘The Masked Dancer’

Like the momma show, the goal is for the celebrity panel to discover who is grooving and shaking their money-makers under the costumes and masks. Once the performances are presented, the panelists, aided by the audience, will vote for their most to least favorite. As to how they will figure out who the mystery guests are, there will be clues given (like mother, like daughter), but much like the 1950s game show “What’s My Line?” they’re just going to have to guess.

“The Masked Dancer” will probably be as big of a hit as the “Singer,” but I seriously question both of their longevity. It seems much of television is just taking a template and adding a variation on the same theme when it comes to singing and dance competition programs, with the shows “American Idol” and “Dancing With The Stars” serving as those templates. But how many times can you milk an old cow and still get milk? “Idol” has already been renewed for season 19, and although the ABC network has yet to announce if there will be a season 30 for “Dancing With The Stars,” my guess is there will be. Of course, I wish this spin-off the best of success, as, during this time of COVID-19, we need all the laughs we can get! Still, silly can only keep our attention for so long. How long before viewers will be snoring in their seats, or switching channels?