A PIN-DROP moment at The Masked Dancer as Davina McCall threatened to unlock a mystery that has baffled the television world since about 1996, on Tuesday.
“I think,” she said, cautiously, “I’ve figured out why I’m here.” Yes . . . ?
The costumes, too, have had to change and as well as being lighter, they also seem a bit more sinisterCredit: ITV
“I’m here to make people feel better about themselves.” Oh well.
It was a nice thought, I suppose, but “feeling better about myself” is not an emotion I’ve ever experienced watching The Masked Dancer, a surplus-to-requirements operation which was never going to work as well as the singing version.
But you know what ITV’s like by now.
They pressed ahead anyway and the spin-off format operates in very similar fashion to the original, although there have been some changes to the make-up and power balance of the judging panel.
ITV nearly always lose the plot when they get a hit showCredit: ITV
Oti Mabuse has been a significant improvement on Rita Ora, Jonathan Ross is stealthily taking over presenting duties from Joel Dommett, Mo Gilligan remains obsessively convinced every potentially hot female contestant is “Maya Jama” and Davina still looks utterly lost without an autocue to prompt her.
The costumes, too, have had to change and as well as being lighter, they also seem a bit more sinister.
Burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese, we were underwhelmed to discover, was inside the ruptured haemorrhoid outfit that went by the name of “Beetroot”, but the one that continues to chase me through my dreams is “Squirrel” who looks more like Nick Ferrari, after his fourth bottle of Merlot, or Paloma Faith’s sex face.
Davina initially thought “Bruno Mars” might be lurking inside Squirrel, but, safe to say, despite not seeing last night’s episode, you can ignore her advice as “managing expectations” is not really the panel’s strong point.
Names ventured, in the first four episodes, have included: Margot Robbie, Daniel Day-Lewis, Portia de Rossi, Paris Hilton, Gemma Arterton, Shania Twain and even “Ru Paul” for the hyperactive chubster in the Zip costume.
Which is quite a contrast to the numbing reality of Jordan Banjo (Viper), Louise Redknapp (Flamingo) and Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards (Rubber Chicken), but doesn’t begin to match the disappointment I felt when Beetroot mentioned she was “often pickled” and no one shouted: “JUDY?!”
The one that continues to chase me through my dreams is ‘Squirrel’ who looks more like Nick Ferrari, after his fourth bottle of MerlotCredit: Rex Features
Optimism is not always a bad thing, of course. It can occasionally work to the show’s comedy advantage. As it did, on Tuesday night, when Rubber Chicken performed an energetic jive, to Lou Bega’s Mambo No5, and Oti Mabuse doubled up everyone by very seriously concluding the occupant was: “Lord Sebastian Coe.”
I don’t want to give The Masked Dancer too much encouragement here, though, because the real headless chickens are ITV, who nearly always lose the plot when they get a hit show.
It starts with The Masked Singer and then, before you know it, the networks are filled with copycat shows, like Game Of Talents and I Can See Your Voice, Joel Dommett is announced as the new host of The National Television Awards and spin-off series appear.
This one is tolerable, I suppose. If it’s any kind of success, though, The Masked Dancer would certainly not be the last. Television would be peppered with Masked Chefs, Masked Comedians, Masked Vets, until the laws of supply and demand kicked in and viewers decided they hated every guessing game involving a hidden identity or anything in a mask.
ITV would successfully have destroyed the thing they most love and, for their own sakes, this can’t be allowed to happen.
The Masked Singer may be dumb and demeaning, but so are a lot of the other entertaining things in life and on television, which is why it’s actually worth saving. Meanwhile, the hunt for Davina McCall’s point continues (ITV, tonight, 7.30pm).
THIS week’s winner is Pep Guardiola and Munch’s The Scream. Sent in by Rab Bull, Sidcup.
Pep Guardiola and Munch’s The Scream show great resemblanceCredit: Getty
Picture research, Amy Reading.
JOE Cole: “It’s impossible to give an answer, but it’s no.”
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: “We’re in for a hectic second first 45 minutes.”
Joe Cole: “The decision wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t right.”
FRIDAY Night Dinner’s moving celebration of the great Paul Ritter, who could do everything from comedy to Chernobyl.
BBC2’s Springwatch introducing me to the mind-blowingly cute concept of Glaswegian water voles “who eat fruit”.
Paul Ritter could do everything from comedy to ChernobylCredit: Getty
A Countdown letters round leaving Dictionary Corner’s Janet Street-Porter with IGENYMIRS and nowhere else to go but “MINGERS”.
And Kate Winslet’s darkly magnificent Mare Of Easttown, on Sky Atlantic, which is heavy going for the first episode, but well worth the effort.
- YESTERDAY, Today & The Day Before, Ria Lina: “See you next week for more scintillating topical chat.”
- Packed Lunch, Steph McGovern: “What we all know and love you for, Arg, is your personality.”
- The Masked Dancer, Joel Dommett: “Davina, I love your hair tonight.” Oh come off it, Joel. It looks like the barcode for Canesten.
- MEANWHILE, on BBC2’s planet Springwatch, Iolo Williams: “If you’re at home with youngsters and they’re bored, dissect some owl pellets. It’s brilliant.”
- Yeah. Owl crap rummaging. I’ll bear it in mind, Iolo. Incidentally, re Iolo Williams: “If ever you get approached, on some RSPB estates, by someone who wants to show you a black cock lek, then please do it. It’s fabulous.”
- DON’T. Run like hell.
CHANNEL 5 introduced us to a black, bisexual Anne Boleyn this week and now clearly believes the spirit of Martin Luther King beats within its soul.
It doesn’t, obviously.
Channel 5 introduced us to a black, bisexual Anne BoleynCredit: Channel 5
It was an empty right-on gesture that didn’t even extend to Anne’s uncle, who was white. Although this anomaly wasn’t as distracting as the fact Henry VIII appeared to have fitted roller blinds in one of his castle’s upstairs bedrooms.
Where the hell did he get them? Hillarys’ 1535 summer sale?
One of those things you notice when you’re only half engaged by a dull mini-series where the budget was clearly tight and the script was just a series of soap cliches, from the lesbian kiss with Jane Seymour to the screaming matches with her husband, which gave Jodie Turner-Smith and Mark Stanley’s Anne and Henry all the clout of EastEnders’ Janine and Barry.
So I can’t even tell you if I shrugged or cheered when he had the narky mare beheaded.
But, for the historical record: Not only was she charged with plotting to kill the king, which was clearly ridiculous, the Norfolk-born aristocrat was also accused of having “Carnal knowledge of her brother”.
Bang to rights then.
MAZON’S Never Give In is a beautiful tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson, made by his son, Jason.
Background to the documentary is a brain haemorrhage which almost killed Fergie, in 2018, and could so easily have wiped out treasured memories of the early years in Govan with his parents, Elizabeth, the devoted mother, who could see no wrong, and Alexander, the almost impossible-to-impress shipyard-working father who lived by a familiar rule: “No establishment honour can compare with the privilege of belonging to the Scottish working class.”
Mazon’s Never Give In is a beautiful tribute to Sir Alex FergusonCredit: AFP – Getty
Fergie accepted all of the honours they could throw at him, of course.
It was his upbringing, though, which he used to build those brilliant teams who dismantled football’s established order and rocked the football world to its foundations when they conquered Europe’s aristocrats.
But then, inexplicably, Fergie left Aberdeen in 1986 and the documentary tails off a bit, if I’m 100 per cent honest with you. Pity.
THE Chase, Celebrity Special, Bradley Walsh: “Introduced in 1964, what type of Ford car is named after a wild horse?”
Rylan Clark-Neal: “Cougar.”
Rylan Clark-Neal replies ‘Cougar’Credit: Rex
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “Maracas typically belong to which section of an orchestra?”
And The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “The Paul Nash painting Battle Of Britain depicts a scene from what war?”
Katie: “World War One.”
- AND to everyone who sent in the email – yes, thanks, I did notice the Piers Morgan’s Life Stories/Inside KFC schedule clash.
David Mitchell trying to make the Have I Got News For You audience applaud instead of laugh.
Piers Morgan attempted to contort his face into something resembling ‘compassion’ on Keir Starmer’s Life StoriesCredit: Rex
Comedy Central deserving to lose the first word of its name for its Yesterday, Today & The Day Before abomination.
And EastEnders’ Linda Carter, landlady of the most ludicrously woke pub in London, announcing The Queen Vic “must do more for the deaf community”, like they haven’t all been screaming their nuts off in that place since 1985.
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