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A few mis-steps on The Masked Dancer

Two years ago, I admitted with some shame that I had become addicted to a Fox reality show called The Masked Singer.  The series included quasi-celebrity judges along with a host still re-building his image after being fired from America’s Got Talent, Nick Cannon.

Despite all the reasons to change the channel, I was immediately hooked on the singing contest that had varying degrees of celebrities performing in crazy disguises.  The voices were often surprisingly good and the idea of non-singers risking their reputation by singing in public had me rooting for them.

As the show picked up fans (apparently, I wasn’t alone in my shame), the quality of the performances and the level of celebrity also rose.  And the background story clues made it a fun game to play as a viewer trying to guess their identity.

So as The Masked Singer wrapped its fourth season, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that producers introduced a spin-off.  The problem was it was The Masked Dancer.

Using the same format as the original, TMD has celebrities in full body disguise including a headpiece performing “dance” routines.  And yes, it’s as painful to watch as it sounds.

In some cases, I’ve seen more actual dancing on Lip Sync Battle.  The back-up dancers are stellar.  However, the rest is like a cross-between watching the groomsmen rock out on the dance floor at a wedding at midnight, and the dance recitals I’ve sat through in which the kids (and some of the adults on stage) were applauded just for making it to the end of the song without throwing up.

Sure, TMD has a couple of competitors with real dance chops.  The Tulip premiered with a fabulous tap routine and followed it with a contemporary duet.  However, one of the oft-so-brilliant judges guessed her to be a gymnast, claiming that her choreographed back bend “could only be done by a gymnast.”  (Apparently, he’s never seen So You Think You Can Dance.  Or any real dancer for that matter.)

But even the trained dancers have trouble performing under all that material, latex and prosthetics.  Although not as heavy and claustrophobic as TMSinger costumes, these Dancer outfits are still weighty.  And watching the Hammerhead Shark try to hip-hop while holding on to his headpiece’s bulging eyes was laughable.

Fortunately, the camera work is breaking all the rules of serious dance shows.  The shots jump around from angle to angle, often focusing on head shots or the various back-up dancers, hiding the missteps of the stars and avoiding comparisons to the real dancers behind them. And with a few compliments from the judges, viewers are left to believe they performed admirably.

While there are certainly moments of fun, TMD is, thus far, a poor relation of the original.  The question remains: will it survive long enough to entice a higher quality of performance next season like its older cousin did?  Or will Season 1 be the last dance?