GRAPHIC BY EMMA CHANG
By COLLEEN GAPUZAN
Fox might just have “unmasked” the most addicting reality singing competition of the year…
On Jan. 2nd, Fox premiered The Masked Singer, a top-secret singing competition in which celebrities, athletes, singers and other notable Hollywood stars battle it out while simultaneously being fully disguised in elaborate costumes. Hosted by Nick Cannon, along with panelists Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger, and Robin Thicke, the competition revolves around the audience members who vote for the celebrity that gets to sing another week and take one step closer to the live finale. At the end of each episode, the masked performer with the lowest number of votes from the studio audience is unmasked and sent home.
The television series originated in South Korea under a different name, King of Mask Singer, and received high ratings. The Masked Singer’s premiere had 17.6 million multi-platform viewers to date and has earned the title of Fox’s most-watched unscripted debut in 11 years. As a matter of fact, the producers have announced the show’s renewal for season two, allowing a new group of Hollywood’s elite to take the stage.
In as little as a month, the American series became an instant phenomenon and captivated viewers around the world, leaving everyone guessing who really is behind the mask.
Each week, the celebrities perform a song of their choice, as well as drop hints to their identity. After the performance, the panel of judges come to a consensus as to who they think the performer is based on the clues that were featured that week. In addition, the panelists also get to conduct a question and answer portion after each celebrities’ performance to help them determine their true identity. This section of the episode allows the viewers at home to get extra hints to assist them in formulating their own predictions as to who they think the masked singers are, thus increasing their enjoyment.
In season one, the competition gets heated as the Alien, Bee, Lion, Monster, Peacock, Rabbit, Raven, Unicorn, Poodle, Deer, Pineapple and Hippo compete in a showdown based on vocals, stage presence, and charisma. Week after week, the audience attempts to figure out who the star-studded competitors are. Having a combined total of 65 Grammy nominations, 16 multi-Platinum albums, 16 Emmy nominations, 9 Broadway shows, 4 Super Bowl titles and 4 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the fans are put to the test to help solve the vocal mystery of the year.
The show’s unique premise captured a wide audience from the beginning. Whether or not it is worth a 100% average on Rotten Tomatoes, the majority can agree that there is no other reality show quite like this. Following the intense vocal battle, the American spin-off leaves viewers on the edge of their couches with new clues they might have missed the week before. Unlike the Korean original, The Masked Singer focuses more on audience engagement for the viewers behind the television screen. The competition provides mini videos titled “The Clues” in which each masked celebrity drops hints about themselves that aids viewers in determining their identities. For example, last week, American stand-up comedian and actress Margaret Cho also known as The Poodle incorporated clues from her hometown San Francisco and included a rainbow backdrop to hint at her activeness in the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, the show also features engaging backstage interviews and behind the scenes video clips to increase the viewers’ chances of guessing.
Another factor that contributes to the series’ success is the fact that it produces the unexpected. Instead of hiring celebrities who double as professional singers, the audience gets a fresh taste of new voices that they may have never heard. For instance, when former NFL player Terry Bradshaw got eliminated, people were stunned to have witnessed his amazing singing ability. With that in mind, the possibility of discovering their favorite celebrities’ singing capability compels the audience to tune in another week, in hopes of unearthing hidden talents.
Despite the sudden craze and popularity, there are also individuals who do not necessarily approve of animals exercising their vocal prowess on live television.
One of the biggest factors that contributed to the show’s immediate backlash is the “mediocre” panel of judges. Critics have complained that the judges were not the best fit for the show since they were expected to be giving vocal feedback. For example, actress and activist Jenny McCarthy was instead labeled as a “Pop Culture Guru” in which caused controversy regarding her true judging ability. Due to this, many viewers were arguing the intent of the celebrities singing to begin with when they weren’t receiving the necessary feedback. Regardless, the diverse panel of judges adds to the more comedic side of the competition, as well as including a wider range of speculation for the contestants.
All in all, The Masked Singer has definitely proven to be a front runner in reality telecast. By “embracing the DNA” of all the best Fox unscripted shows while simultaneously pampering its reality competition enthusiasts, thank you, Fox, for America’s newest addition to fueling our binge-watching obsession—never take it off.