The Masked Dancer, review: Saturday night's weirdest show returns with Peter Crouch onboard

Astronaut (aka the actor Jesse Metcalfe) competes in The Masked Dancer - ITV/Kieron McCarron
Astronaut (aka the actor Jesse Metcalfe) competes in The Masked Dancer - ITV/Kieron McCarron

This Astronaut definitely wasn’t over the moon. American actor Jesse Metcalfe removed his space helmet and became the first contestant eliminated from The Masked Dancer (ITV). Like the choreographic equivalent of Nasa’s Artemis rocket, his routine failed to achieve lift-off. Ironic, given how the opening sequence had been themed around lunar travel.

Many viewers exclaimed “Who?” at Metcalfe, who is best known for appearing in Desperate Housewives 15 years ago. At least judge Oti Mabuse recognised him. “He was my high school crush!” she exclaimed.

During last year’s debut series, we were treated to such surreal sights as Craig Revel Horwood cutting some rug in a Knickerbocker Glory costume, Dita Von Teese dressed as a burlesque beetroot and Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards throwing disco shapes inside a rubber chicken.

For this second run of The Masked Singer’s twinkle-toed sister show, the garb is even more gloriously random. We’ll be wowed by the fancy footwork of Prawn Cocktail, Sea Slug, Odd Socks and, most outlandish of all, Onomatopoeia. Yes, they’re now basing outfits on linguistic terms. Just pity the poor caption-writer who has to spell it.

As the flamboyantly disguised contest returned, there was a change of personnel on the panel. With comedian Mo Gilligan tied up with touring (not to mention his Channel 4 commitments), former footballer Peter Crouch came off the sub’s bench. His sole qualification for the job? Busting out robotics to celebrate scoring for England back in 2006. TV careers have been based on less.

He joined “dance detectives” Mabuse, Jonathan Ross and Davina McCall in trying to work out who was perspiring profusely behind those masks. Crouch proved a likeable addition, took the absurd game endearingly seriously and made multiple guesses for each dancer - including Boris Johnson for Candlestick. Which would certainly be a surprise twist to his post-Downing Street career.

The opening episode saw six of the 12 mystery celebrities trip the light fantastic. Candlestick danced off against Scissors in what host Joel Dommett called “a health and safety nightmare”. Odd Socks put her best foot forward. Pillar & Post became the show’s first ever dancing duo. And Ross made his traditional "Mary Berry?" guess for elegant mover Prawn Cocktail.

The Masked Dancer isn’t as compelling as The Masked Singer, duly drawing lower ratings. As family-friendly entertainment, though, it will plug the glittery gap until Strictly arrives in a fortnight. Sadly for moonwalking Metcalfe, it was one step for mankind too far. Deploy ejector seat.