‘To Tell the Truth’ is a case of mother love for Anthony Anderson

ABC game-show revival returns for Season 6

Mother and son Doris Hancox and Anthony Anderson co-host “To Tell the Truth,” which starts its sixth season Tuesday on ABC.

Not everyone gets to work with their mother, even fewer as publicly as Anthony Anderson.

The star of the acclaimed comedy “black-ish” has a second ABC series, the revival of the classic game show “To Tell the Truth.” It starts its sixth season Tuesday, Jan. 26 (now leading into “black-ish”), as a changing-weekly panel of celebrities (three instead of four this time, to adhere to social distancing) joins Anderson and his “Mama” Doris Hancox to guess which of three contestants actually is the person whose story is told.

Anderson also is an executive producer of “To Tell the Truth,” and though it might be assumed he suggested having his mom on the show, that’s not how it went. He explains, “I had met with (production company) Fremantle, and we’d agreed that I was going to be the host, and we were waiting on our start date. In the interim, Steve Harvey — who’s a very good friend of mine — invited me and my family onto ‘Celebrity Family Feud.’ And the first question was, ‘Where would a naked magician pull a rabbit out of?’ ”

After Anderson’s racy response, his mother came up with her own … “and it shut production down for 10 minutes,” Anderson reports. “Steve could not gather himself, the audience lost it, and the moment went viral on YouTube later. We ended up losing to (singer) Toni Braxton and her family, but the Fremantle executives came over and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to talk to you about your mom.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, no. She’s a live wire. I apologize.’ And they were like, ‘No! We love her! What do you think about bringing her into “To Tell the Truth” as your co-host?’ And I immediately said, ‘Yes!’ ”

The eldest of five siblings, Anderson is happy to let Doris have the spotlight: “She was a single mom who had me at 18, and she put her dreams of acting on hold to raise an actor … not knowing that was what she was doing. I remember seeing her rehearsing for ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ at Compton (Calif.) Community College, and I looked up at the stage and said to myself, ‘That’s what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.’ ”

To facilitate Anderson’s “black-ish” work, a season of “To Tell the Truth” usually is taped at once, as with the new round done last November. While the game helps keep him prominent in primetime, he maintains his greatest pleasure from it is to give back to Doris after all her support of his career. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch and to be a part of,” he reflects, “and to be my mother’s biggest cheerleader and fan.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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