the masked dancer fox disco ball

Fox made a brilliant decision when first ordering a U.S. version of South Korea's The Masked Singer. Its ratings success can easily be measured by the network airing four seasons in the span of slightly less than two years, along with a Season 3 premiere that earned the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot. Adding another notch to the franchise's belt is the upcoming spinoff series The Masked Dancer, and below is a quick rundown of just about everything viewers should know before going into Season 1. (Bonus detail: it's currently an event series, but Season 2 will probably happen if the ratings are solid.)

the masked dancer ken jeong judge's table

The Masked Dancer's Judges Include Ken Jeong And More

In true spinoff form, The Masked Dancer isn't just an offshoot by name, but it also includes one of the flagship series' stars. For the new show, resident excellent-guesser Ken Jeong is joined by American Idol vet Paula Abdul, Beverly Hills 90210 vet Brian Austin Green and the High School Musical series' Ashley Tisdale. All three non-Ken judges have many years of combined experience within the worlds of music and choreographed dancing – and it's not like Ken can't belt out a tune – so they should all make for qualified game show detectives. Plus, Green already has the expertise of being a former Masked Singer contestant.

Another bonus detail! The Big Bang Theory vet Mayim Bialik already confirmed via wardrobe malfunction post that she will be one of the guest judges during the season, partly in promotion of her own new Fox series, the fourth-wall-breaking comedy Call Me Kat.

the masked dancer craig robinson hosting

Craig Robinson Is The Masked Dancer's Host

Anyone who's a fan of Craig Robinson knows that the comedic entertainer knows how to get his groove on, both with his voice and his moves. So he's as natural a fit for The Masked Dancer as Nick Cannon was for The Masked Singer. Viewers can probably expect to see Robinson bust a move at least once during the show's nine-episode season. Fingers crossed it happens at least once an episode, though.

the masked dancer ice cube

The Masked Dancer Features 10 Contestants

The Masked Singer has featured everywhere from 12 to 18 celebrities across its four seasons, so The Masked Dancer is setting a franchise low by only featuring ten different celebrity contestants. Everyone has to start somewhere, though, and The Masked Dancer is kicking things off with a lineup of themed costumes that includes Cotton Candy, Cricket, Disco Ball, Exotic Bird, Hammerhead, Ice Cube, Miss Moth, Sloth, Tulip, and Zebra. As it goes with seasons of the flagship series, expected to be impressed, confused, and sometimes a little creeped out by the over-the-top visuals.

the masked dancer sketch on ellen degeneres show

The Masked Dancer Originated As A Parody

Not every TV show can make the claim that its existence ties back to a spoof segment from a TV show on a completely different network. But so it goes here, with The Masked Dancer being ordered straight-to-series at Fox after a popular run of spots on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which went on to include enough Masked Singer judge cameos that it almost seemed silly for it not to exist as a full-blown series. Will the Fox show pull a fast one on fans by featuring a star who already showed up on Ellen? It's definitely a possibility.

the masked dancer exotic bird dancing

The Masked Dancer Will Feature More Clues Than The Masked Singer

At this point, The Masked Singer viewers are aware that some of the clues used for its contestants are incredibly silly and hard to decipher, but take note that the producers were aware of that notion when putting The Masked Dancer together. They totally understand that it's more difficult to recognize someone's dance steps as opposed to someone's voice. Here's what Brian Austin Green had to say during the show's panel at Fox's virtual Television Critics Association presentation.

It is harder. This show is harder. I think, the clue packages, there's a lot more information in them. There's a different way of viewing this show than Singer and sort of a different focus for people to put on what it is they are watching. And at the end of the day, you know, even though this show is more difficult as a panel, we did a pretty good job. We surprised ourselves. We were expecting it to be a lot tougher than it was. And once we got into, sort of, the rhythm and the understanding of what we were looking for and what made sense, then the show was really fun.

What's more, Paula Abdul followed that up by saying the clues are absolutely everywhere for viewers to pick up on. Not just in the clue packages, but also from within the costumes that the contestants are wearing, as well as the stage decorations and even in the choreography. It'll be interesting to see how particular dance moves may provide pertinent information about one of The Masked Dancer's competitors.

the masked dancer ashley tisdale shocked

The Masked Dancer Will Include A Clue Type That Couldn't Happen On Masked Singer

Not only will The Masked Dancer include more all-around clues than its predecessor, but the spinoff series will also introduce a new kind of clue that wouldn't have been possible to utilize on The Masked Singer without the risk of spoiling people's identities. Here's how executive producer Craig Plestis explained it during the show's TCA panel.

We did some elements that are not in Singer as well. We added in a special clue for the first time. It's called 'Word Up' where you actually could hear their real voices speak. We've never heard their voices underneath the mask before. You've heard them sing. So that’s a big clue on The Masked Dancer, in terms of the identity of some people – and the panel picked up on that. They were pretty observant of that.

Hearing someone's undisguised voice would definitely be a major giveaway clue on The Masked Singer, but that element wouldn't necessarily shake things up on The Masked Dancer. At least, assume the celebs they apply that clue to don't have the world's most recognizable voices. So don't expect to see Friends vet Maggie Wheeler or Picard's Patrick Stewart or South Park's Eric Cartman. (If any show on TV would feature an animated character as a contestant, it's going to be one of Fox's Masked shows.)

the masked dancer cricket

The Costumes Were Designed Differently For The Masked Dancer

To be sure, the elaborate and eye-grabbing costumes that are created for The Masked Singer aren't exactly designed to making stage performances easy feats for singers. But the producers had to come up with a different game plan for The Masked Dancer, since it requires a different set of physical skills, and all while being produced under COVID-19 guidelines. According to executive producer Craig Plestis, the designers took care to consider the wide variety of movements that go along with dancing. In his words:

Well, I think there's obviously a greater range of movement. They are lighter than most of the Singer ones. And our costume people worked really hard with the celebrities, knowing the range of movement they have, whether they could flip or whether they were going to bounce around, to make sure they could perform to the best of their ability in them. I'm not going to say it's easy. And Brian has danced in a costume on The Masked Singer.

Clearly, the biggest takeaway from that answer is: we're gonna see contestants flipping around at some point, and it's probably going to look weird and/or awesome. One of The Masked Dancer's trailers did show a contestant falling to the ground from a large hoop, which may have involved some flips, but hopefully that wasn't a serious accident.

the masked dancer fox hammerhead

The Masked Dancer Premieres On December 27

Before 2020 has bid everyone its final farewell, Fox is giving viewers a post-Christmas taste of The Masked Dancer on a special night. The competition spinoff will debut on Sunday, December 27, at 8:00 p.m. ET, with the network giving the series premiere a key time slot after that day's NFL games, which is consistently helpful for The Simpsons and Fox's other animated series. After that, though, The Masked Dancer will flip to regularly airing on Wednesday nights starting on January 6, where it will serve as the lead-in for the game show revival Name That Tune.

Well, you should have just read when The Masked Dancer will make its premiere on Fox, so we won't reiterate that. But while you're waiting to start logging your guesses, head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring TV premiere guide to see what other new and returning shows are on the way.

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