The Masked Dancer Kicks Off by Kicking Off One of the Biggest Crossover Stars Ever

It looks like this “Masked Singer” spinoff had no trouble landing A-List talent!

Did the world need a spinoff of Fox’s juggernaut smash hit “The Masked Singer”? Not really, but this is 2020 and we’ll take anything to distract us from … well, everything!

And thus, “The Masked Dancer” was given a pretty primo premiere spot behind the NFL on Sunday night. But did it live up to its predecessor? It’s certainly as strange, but it doesn’t have quite the charm just yet.

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It does, however, have as impressive a pedigree. With 38 million albums sold, 20 Emmy wins, 23 world championship titles, and 4 Olympic gold medals this is one decorated crew. And judging by just the first unmasked dancer, they managed to snag some pretty big names from the world of entertainment.

There is at least one benefit for a show like this to so much of Hollywood having been shut down or delayed amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Talent that might have been otherwise busy is suddenly available to put on a silly costume and do silly things.

On top of that, “Singer” has been building a pretty impressive roster of big names willing to “take it off” on national television.

We’re still not totally sold on this format, as we were hoping for a few more great dancers than we’ve seen so far, but we are definitely enjoying the killer costumes, the return of Paula Abdul to our screens — complete with one epic Ken Jeong burn — and the general light-hearted silliness of the whole thing.

So it isn’t completely impossible, this twist on the formula offers way, way more clues (and very pointed ones) than “Singer” these days. And we even get to hear their natural speaking voice, though they only say one word so it’s not as helpful as it might sound.

It’s still a very difficult format to guess identities in, as evidenced by absolutely no one saying the name of the season’s first unmasked superstar.

Let’s jump right in with this week’s masks. And don’t worry, before we get to the shocking unmasking, we’re going to make you power through the terrible (and occasionally good) guesses made by our illustrious panel of Paula Abdul, Ken Jeong, Ashley Tisdale and Brian Austin Green first. We do this because we love … to torture you.

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Hammerhead

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Hammerhead is a massive dude, with us definitely noting his athletic and thick thighs. He also moved like an athlete, with a lot of strength and agility, but no real dance prowess. He certainly was having fun and getting a workout. We also couldn’t help but notice the other dancers helping guide him to his mark, so it must be difficult to see through the mask, making the choreo he did pull off even more impressive.

Guesses: His clue package suggested he hit fame young, making us think this could be one of the show’s Olympic athletes, perhaps. We also saw a cup of “Joe,” various lips and a key clue of a burger and bowl of alphabet soup, spelling “Talk.” Is it Joel McHale? Are his legs that big?

Ken was certainly impressed with his physique — it would be hilarious if it was Joel and he failed to recognize him. Of course, Joel is way taller than this dude, unless Craig is suddenly 7 feet tall. Ken was thinking comedian, though the ripped Carrot Top came to his mind.

We also saw him painting someone surfing, then himself surfing with a clock counting up from 6:00 to 6:05 and then back again as he reversed his whole story saying he moves backwards to move his life forward. Is he an ice skater?

Ashley heard a surfer tone when he said his single word in his regular voice, “dramatic.”

Paula was thinking boy band, but not so much with the choreo, so she landed on non-dancers Niall Horan or Liam Payne, but that cup of “Joe” also had her thinking maybe Joe Jonas. Brian, though, wonders if maybe it’s “Baywatch” star Zac Efron.

Zac Efron got some love from the internet as well, but probably their best and most consistent guess was swimmer Ryan Lochte, with other guesses including Michael Phelps and even Vinny Guadagnino..

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Tulip

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Tulip did not come to play, she came to tap! Always a challenging dance format, she showed some real skill on her feet, incorporating some hip-hop swag into it as well. This is definitely someone with years of dance experience. She also has stage presence for days in that tiny frame.

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Guesses: Giving off very young vibes, the panel picked up on her closing TikTok sign. She also dropped a “High School Musical” quote (“We’re all in this together”) as well as referencing the “stranger things” about her. The panel was already getting Millie Bobby Brown vibes.

Tulip shared that she was teased growing up, sharing mean notes in her Mount Laurel School yearbook. We also saw her “Tick Tock” clock (another TikTok reference?), with references to 11 (Mille Bobby Brown, again?), a ticket from AL to DC, and even a dirt-filled suitcase.

There were also heavy “Oz” clues, with a huge triple-heel-click clue and a rainbow across the sky at another point. Her word was “triple,” so is she saying she’s a triple-threat, or something more?

Ashley was thinking it could be Charlie D’Amliio, who was big in an anti-bullying campaign and has a dance background. Paula, though, wondered if she wore her hair in a ponytail because Ariana Grande is being considered for a “Wicked” film.

Ken, though, wondered if it was his former “Glee” co-star — after his two-episode arc — Heather Morris. Twitter was quickly doing its homework, though they also suspected Millie Bobby Brown, or maybe her co-star Sadie Sink

We also saw guesses as varied and confident as Skai Jackson, Debby Ryan and Haley Sharpe, but their most consistent and most supported (with evidence) guess is “DWTS: Juniors” alum and dancer Mackenzie Ziegler.

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Cricket

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Cricket was totally in character as an insect, but he was stiff like a dead one when the music started, He reminded us of those retired athletes who lumber through the early weeks on “Dancing with the Stars.” He’s definitely got NBA height. There’s a little groove there, but he did very little actual moving, and what he did was just so tight and uncomfortable. Ironically, he was more physically animated after the music stopped. Nerves?

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Guesses: His entire clue package was Vegas based, but the most obvious one was a “90210” clue, which could be one of the shows or just LA. He said he was unlucky in love, but “3×10” on the slots turned it around. He also showed four aces as another super clue.

Mentions included that he and his beau are now a power couple, rock and apprentice, the art of bounce and even punked (or is that “Punk’d”?). His word, spoken very crisply, was “accomplished.”

We didn’t hear Jim Carrey in that voice, but Brian thought the aces could be an “Ace Ventura” reference. It’s no worse than Ken thinking green cricket, Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds. Come on, man!

Brain took “90210” more literally to consider Ian Ziering, while Ashley was thinking it could be Ashton Kutcher with his power couple other half Mila Kunis. And she didn’t even mention his show, “Punk’d.”

The internet’s favorite guess (to make fun of) was definitely the person who guessed Brian Austin Green. On a more serious note, they totally loved the Ashton Kutcher guess, with support also thrown behind Ian Ziering and some stray guesses for the likes of John Mulaney, Steph Curry, Dwyane Wade and even Will Smith.

In other words, Twitter doesn’t have any better ideas just yet.

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Disco Ball

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Disco Ball had the ultimate white guy dance going, stepping back and forth and sometimes forward. He needed assistance to get down the steps and really had very little physically to offer. He moved like an older gentlemen, and even brought a few old-school disco moves because why not.

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Guesses: Aside from his mustache and peace glasses, everything Disco Ball was doing was giving us old-school vibes from an older dude. His clues went so far as to suggest people thought they knew everything about him, but they didn’t.

He said he lost his parents at a young age, while other phrases like “serve and protect” (with a gavel) and “not expendable” showed up. We got a bald eagle and an Army salute, suggesting a military connection, as well as a key clue of iced tea. Another key clue was a shark in a fountain.

His one word, “Grammy,” came out with gravel and an accent. Ashley took the gavel to thinking it could be MC Hammer, but we’ve seen him dancing in recent commercials and he’s still got moves!

Brain picked up on the swag and thought old-school rapper, too, throwing out names like Rev Run, Coolio and Diddy. But the J-bone had him thinking it’s actually LL Cool J … but LL Cool J is pretty buff and thick, still.

Ken surprised us with a pretty solid guess, picking up on Motown moves in the dance and the word “miracle” In the clue package to land on Smokey Robinson.

The internet is all over the place with this one, with several people throwing support behind soem of the panel’s names and some others being bandied about like Tom Selleck, Steve Harvey, will.i.am and Judges Joe Brown and Greg Mathis. In other words, he’s got them stumped, too.

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Exotic Bird

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Exotic Bird let her hips do the majority of her dancing, but she had some solid dance moves and confidence out there when she did pick up her feet and use them. There was, however, a heavy groundedness to her overall movements that had us thinking athlete with movement capabilities over trained dancer.

Guesses: EB (her friends can call her that) dropped “scored” with a throaty, huskier voice than expected, lending credence to our athlete theory. She’s also very tall, said she got started as a teen and admitted she was competitive, winning big early.

We saw the number 17 repeat, as well as a perfume bottle and a starting pistol blasting glitter. She spoke of feeling attacked for losing, her relationships and just “being a big bird,” so maybe her height?

Finally, we saw her cooking with eggs “best by ‘07,” and even dropping one.

Brain was thinning athletes like Marion Jones and Hope Solo, but Paula is thinking Jennifer Hudson based on her height and performance ability. Ken, once again, came in with our guess and a great one as Venus Williams won Wimbledon in ‘07 (her birthday is the 17th of June).

Twitter was feeling athletic vibes as well, tossing around names like Laila Ali, but there were also more seemingly random guesses like Paris Hilton, Camila Cabello, Jordin Sparks, Khloe Kardashian and even Taylor Swift..

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UNMASKING

The weakest dancers of the night were easily Cricket and Disco Ball, but Cricket at least brought some extra personality and character to his presence when he wasn’t dancing. Plus, as poorly as he moved, he still did far better than Disco Ball, who barely moved at all.

On a night of sub-par dancing across the majority of the contestants, our money would still be on Disco Ball wrapping his time on the show because he just wasn’t able to bring much at all to the stage, so it’s hard to imagine how he’d follow it up … with even less?

It turns out the panel and voting audience totally agreed as Disco Ball became the season’s first casualty.

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In another new twist, the panel was offered the chance to ask a question before locking in their final guesses. As such, we learned that he’s been seen on screens big and small and possibly heard on the radio. He’s won an award other than a Grammy and was famous in the ‘90s.

It wasn’t particularly helpful to us, as this one had us completely stumped. Did the panel do any better?

  • Paula Abdul: Ving Rhames
  • Ken Jeong: Smokey Robinson
  • Ashley Tisdale: Lionel Richie
  • Brian Austin Green: LL Cool J

As it turns out, Brian was going in the right direction thinking old-school rapper who made the transition into acting, but he didn’t land on the right guy, In fact, no one got this one right as Ice-T had them all stumped

He also gave one of the best clues ever with a glass of iced tea. The gavel and shark were references to his character Fin on “Law & Order: SVU,” so yeah, this one was definitely packed with solid clues..

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“The Masked Dancer” continues on its regular night starting Monday January 6 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.


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