The Masked Singer is bizarre and a little bit tacky, but it’s also the most engrossing reality singing competition since The Voice debuted seven years ago.
Fox’s new show follows unidentified celebrities dressed in elaborate face-concealing costumes belting Top 40 hits in hopes of winning a grand trophy. It’s the American adaption of the Korean original King of Masked Singer where Ryan Reynolds famously sang “Tomorrow” from Annie dressed as a unicorn. It’s unclear if The Masked Singer will attract a similar cohort of A-List contestants, though it touts Grammy winners, Super Bowl champions, and Emmy nominees. But that’s part of the charm. Could they have actually booked Jack Black?
EW stopped by a mid-season taping on June 21, 2018, that was equal parts chaotic (the warm-up comedienne failed to fully energize the live audience) and thrilling (the costume designer deserves an Emmy for the ornate looks). Here’s what we saw.
It’s Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg’s world
Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg is joined on the panel by former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, singer Robin Thicke, as well as comedian Ken Jeong. Though Nick Cannon hosts, he stays on the side of the stage and doesn’t interact with the panelists who sit above the audience. The set-up doesn’t entirely work. They are a bit too far away from the action. You’d have to turn around to see their real-time reactions during the performances. But even from afar, McCarthy Wahlberg dominates with the best one-liners and biggest energy. Cannon, a former America’s Got Talent host, pales in comparison.
Come for the voices
Surprisingly, each contestant can actually sing. The audience came alive for the performances, watching the singers belt out hits like The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” Lady Gaga’s “Diamond Heart,” and Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Each singer is preceded by a video dropping little hints about their identity for the panelists who play a game of “Two Truths and a Lie.” They’re rarely ever right, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the voices that keep things interesting.
Stay for the costumes
One guest panelist, who hasn’t yet been announced, summed it up best when they said the show goes “from America’s Got Talent to America’s got freaks.” Everyone looked like they walked off the set of a Tim Burton film. There’s a steampunk Bee, a Liberace-inspired peacock, a futuristic Rabbit, and a monster that just might be the cousin of Sully from Monster’s Inc. (above). While lavish, the looks hindered many contestants from dancing across the stage.
It’s all about the reveal
No one knows who the celebrity contests are — not Cannon, not the panelists, and not even the producers or stagehands. That’s part of the excitement. Even Fox employees were on the edge of their seats waiting to find out who was sent home — Gigi Hadid? Paris Jackson? Kendall Jenner? The unmasking doesn’t actually occur right after the announcement. The singers are given time to head backstage to touch up their makeup and hair. But 20 minutes later, the reveal is still as satisfying after hours of guessing.
The Masked Singer premieres Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.