Singing-contest reality shows feel like they have since lost their novelty on television. The heyday of programs such as “American Idol”, and later “The Voice”, has long gone with their long string of seasons. General-talent shows may have tried to slot into that place of prominence (with singing acts included in the contestants), but it is not quite the same. If singing competitions try to stand out on TV, then something new must be added to the formula, and judging from the first episode of “The Masked Singer” from Fox, a surprise untested twist does work; but just how well?
Entertainment Weekly has it that “The Masked Singer”, a new reality singing competition on Fox, has premiered its first episode Wednesday, January 2; and its premise was enough to both intrigue and puzzle. International TV viewers might notice that “The Masked Singer” is thematically similar to “King of Mask Singer” on South Korea’s MBC network, but different enough to stand on its own. A dozen celebrity contestants have been auditioned to participate in sing-offs against one another. The catch is that their identities are completely concealed by full-body costume and large mascot masks, and they are only identified by nicknames.
In this manner, the singing competitors can be theoretically judged on vocal talents alone without bias from their true identities, though insert interviews with the contestants are still rife with dropped hints about their names. “The Masked Singer” is hosted by rapper Nick Cannon, and the titular masked singers are then judged by a four-man panel of judges: Nicole Scherzinger, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke. Six of the competitors were put into face-offs for the debut episode, three of which won and moved on, two of the losers were voted safe, and the sixth eliminated with their identities revealed to judges and audience.
About the only clue the public gets on the identities of the masked singers were that they have won a wide variety of awards: Grammys, Emmys, multi-platinum albums, Broadway roles and even stuff like Super Bowl titles. Indeed, even non-recording artists are mixed in the contestants as proven by the first eliminated singer, Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown (who was costumed and nicknamed “Hippo”). While certain reviews feel the costumed performance format is too cluttered at times, the mystery element of trying to guess who the contestants are is a welcome new development to the singing contest. While it is only one episode premiere old, “The Masked Singer” looks fit to make an impression for itself at the start of 2019. It airs Wednesdays at Fox.
Image courtesy of The Wrap