Fox made it official on Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, revealing that it took less than 24 hours to get the ball rolling. "The day after it aired was the day I phoned up that production company," Fox executive Rob Wade told Variety. "January of last year, almost a year ago."
Riffing off of the juggernaut success of "The Masked Singer," Ellen introduced her own variation on it, dubbing it "The Masked Dancer." She simply followed the format of the original show and swapped dancing for singing.
And apparently that was enough to get the wheels turning at Fox that maybe this is something that could actually work for real, so they partnered with Ellen to make it happen.
Considering dancing reality shows are among the most enduring and popular in the format, it's a decision that makes a lot of sense. "The Masked Singer" injected new life and energy into the singing reality show in a way we haven't seen since "The Voice" introduced swiveling chairs. Maybe this could do the same for dance shows.
Interestingly, while Fox has apparently picked the concept up to series, Wade admits that they're still ironing out exactly how to make this work as a series. On Ellen's show, she and Twitch (her sidekick and professional dancer) watch a costumed performer and try to guess who it is. But dancing is a lot different than singing.
"Obviously the difference in the format is the fact that you don't hear someone's voice, yet you still have to guess, so we need to work out ways to help the viewer guess people in a slightly different way," Wade said.
"It doesn't have to be a solo dance," he continued. "It could be a group dance or dances with another person who doesn't have a mask on, so you can have partners as well, which would give you the ability to have a variety of different dances. I think it's a question of how you can get the clues out."
Fans have been enjoying watching celebrities shake their tails on "Dancing with the Stars" for many years now, so the concept is certainly solid enough, but without substantial clues, it's going to be almost impossible to determine non-dancers by their physicality. At least with a voice, you can try to latch onto something recognizable in it even if they're not known for singing.
One idea they're tossing around is modifying the voice modulation so that the actual voice of the celebrity creeps through a little more. Whatever they decide, though, they've got to work fast. The network is reportedly already casting for the spinoff. Like "The Masked Singer," it will likely film its entire season before debuting, to make it harder to guess who's under the masks.
They're also going to have to get creative with how the masks and costumes work, as one of the constant criticisms of many of the "Masked Singer" outfits is how physically restrictive they are. Obviously, that wouldn't work at all in a dance competition.
Fox continues to tweak the formula for "The Masked Singer," which returns for its third season after this year's Super Bowl. This time around, there will be 18 contestants split into groups of six.
Rather than jump back and forth across all of them -- which made the first two seasons feel a little disjointed -- viewers will invest in them group by group until each is down to three remaining celebs. Then those nine will battle it out for the Golden Mask.
While he said he loves the possiblities in this "Masked" format, Wade admitted, "I don't know where you'd go after singing or dancing." Maybe just stay tuned to "Ellen" and you'll find out!