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The Masked Singer (American TV series)

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The Masked Singer
The words "The Masked Singer" in a gold-colored, capitalized typeface appearing in front of a 3D mask design and multicolored background
GenreReality competition
Based onKing of Mask Singer
by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation
Developed byCraig Plestis
Directed by
  • Alex Rudzinski
  • Brad Duns
Presented byNick Cannon
Starring
Opening theme"Who Are You"
by The Who
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes47 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Craig Plestis
  • Izzie Pick Ibarra
  • Rosie Seitchik
  • Nick Cannon
  • James Breen
Running time41–85 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor
Release
Original networkFox
Original releaseJanuary 2, 2019 (2019-01-02) –
present
Chronology
Related shows
  • The Masked Singer: After the Mask
  • The Masked Dancer
External links
Website

The Masked Singer is an American reality singing competition television series that premiered on Fox on January 2, 2019. It is the first non-Asian adaptation of the Masked Singer franchise and features celebrities singing covers of songs while wearing head-to-toe costumes and face masks that conceal their identities. Hosted by Nick Cannon, the program employs panelists who are given various clues alluding to the celebrities' identities to guess who they could be after each performs. Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Nicole Scherzinger, and Robin Thicke appear in each episode and a guest panelist often appears alongside them. At the end of each episode, the panelists and an audience vote for their favorite singer and the least popular is eliminated, taking off their mask to reveal their identity.

The winners of the first three seasons were T-Pain as "Monster", Wayne Brady as "Fox", and Kandi Burruss as "Night Angel", respectively. To prevent their identities from being revealed before each prerecorded episode is broadcast, the use of code names, disguises, and non-disclosure agreements is extensive, as is a team of security guards. While considering it more positive than other reality television shows, television critics have had mixed reviews for the series and particularly negative opinions of its panelists. The costumes, however, have attracted praise. Inspired by haute couture, they are designed by Marina Toybina and custom-built by a team that ensures the celebrities can sing clearly while wearing them. In recognition of the show's costume design, Toybina has won a Costume Designers Guild Award and a Creative Arts Emmy Award.

As the highest-rated non-sports program in the adults 18–49 key demographic each American television season it has aired, the series's television ratings have remained consistently high. Two spin-offs—an aftershow and upcoming dance version—have followed as a result. Subsequent adaptations of the Masked Singer franchise have been credited to the show's success, as has an interest in adapting other South Korean reality television series and television formats centered on costumes.

Format[edit]

Each season features a group of celebrity contestants. In a typical episode, four to six each sing a 90–120 second cover of a song anonymously in costume. Hints to their identities—known as the "clue package"—are offered before and occasionally after each performs.[1][2] The perennial format is that of a taped interview with a celebrity's electronically masked voice narrating a video showing cryptic allusions to what they are known for.[3] The panelists are given time to speculate each singer's identity out loud and write down comments in their note binders during the screening of the clue package, after they perform, and before their elimination. They are also allowed to ask questions or request that the host offer additional clues.[1][2] After every performance concludes, the audience and panelists vote for their favorite singer using an electronic device, and the least popular must then take off their mask to reveal their identity. The show uses a weighted voting system; panelists' and audience members' votes are worth 50 percent each and combined to form a final score.[4][5] This process of elimination continues for a set number of episodes until three contestants remain in the finale, and one is declared the winner after they perform again.[6] The "Golden Mask" trophy is awarded as a prize.[7]

All masked singers in an episode occasionally perform as a group during a non-voting performance, and each episode concludes with the eliminated celebrity singing an encore unmasked.[2][8] Since the second season, the series has featured a "smackdown" round in select episodes in which the two least popular competitors from their first performances sing one after another on the same stage, and a second, eliminating vote occurs.[9][10] In the third and fourth seasons, the contestants were divided into three subgroups who each performed on group-exclusive episodes before returning to an alternating performance format.[11][12] A "Golden Ear" trophy awarded to the panelist with the most correct guesses at the end of a season was introduced for the fourth, as was a reduction of performances and the audience viewing and voting remotely.[12][13]

Panelists and host[edit]

The permanent panel consists of actor and comedian Ken Jeong, television personality Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, recording artist Nicole Scherzinger, and singer-songwriter Robin Thicke, with Nick Cannon hosting.[14][15] Guests frequently appear as a fifth panelist—occasionally for multiple episodes. Joel McHale has acted as a guest panelist in every season,[16][17] and T-Pain, the winner of the first, appeared as a guest panelist in the second and third.[18] In July 2020, Cannon's upcoming role in the fourth season was unclear after he made statements on his podcast that "inadvertently promoted hate"; Fox accepted Cannon's apology[14][19] and he pledged to donate his first paycheck from the season to the Simon Wiesenthal Center after visiting with its officials.[20][21]

Production[edit]

Conception and development[edit]

I turned around and all the diners were watching the TV screen. I saw a kangaroo in black pleather singing a pop song. At that moment I said, oh my gosh, I love this! It was bizarre ... and it was still working. I found out that it was a hit format in Korea, it was a hit show in Thailand. And no one had the [U.S.] rights.

—Plestis on the creation of The Masked Singer.[22]

The Masked Singer is based on the South Korean television series King of Mask Singer, which is the originator of the Masked Singer franchise. Executive producer Craig Plestis first noticed the format in October 2017 at Khao Soi, a small Thai restaurant in Studio City, Los Angeles.[23][24][25] While waiting for dinner, he observed the other patrons staring at a television playing an episode of the Thai version of the show. Intrigued, Plestis began researching the series online and contacted an executive of MBC America, a subsidiary of the producer and broadcaster of the South Korean program, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation.[26] With the help of his agent, Steve Wohl of Paradigm Talent Agency, Plestis secured the rights to produce an American adaptation from the company "days later".[22][27] Following the creation of a showreel, he pitched the series to several outlets, all of whom rejected the idea.[26] Plestis then met with Fox executive Rob Wade who "responded right away" to the concept and considered its uniqueness among celebrity singing competitions a strength.[22][26] After successfully pitching the program under the condition A-list celebrities participate,[25][27] Plestis began developing it in November.[28]

In January 2018, executive producer and showrunner Izzie Pick Ibarra became involved to aid in the casting process and Americanize the format. Rather than follow the tournament style of the South Korean version in which eight singers perform in at least one of four rounds, with the winner of the final round facing the previous episode's champion in an attempt to become the new "Mask King", she opted to air one elimination per episode, emphasize the clue package and guessing components, and have the celebrities wear more extravagant costumes.[25][29][30] Plestis agreed, wanting to create a story arc throughout the episodes and—unlike the South Korean show—reuse the costumes.[22] On August 2, 2018, Fox ordered the series and uploaded a trailer to YouTube the same day.[31][32]

Endemol Shine North America produced the first season due to Plestis's relationship with the studio. For the second season, production transitioned to a new in-house studio, Fox Alternative Entertainment, to "keep production costs down and generate larger revenue" for the network.[33][34] Since the second and third seasons, respectively, Rosie Seitchik and Cannon have served as executive producers. Ibarra exited the series following the third season and James Breen assumed her roles in the fourth.[35][36][37] Numerous production and format changes were implemented in the fourth season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the show's budget increased by about 15 percent as a result of testing and safety requirements.[12][38]

Casting[edit]

Since signing a deal with him in 2018, Fox had offered Cannon multiple opportunities to host or produce other television shows, though none interested him. After being fascinated by the Masked Singer concept when presented with it and noticing its success in other countries, Cannon joined the show, believing it was "either going to be a huge failure or a huge hit".[39][40] Ibarra was ecstatic when he agreed to host, citing him as her number one choice for the role because of his personality and experience.[41] It "is one of the most high-profile hosting jobs in broadcast [television]" in the United States.[14] Regarding the panelists, she said the production team was less concerned with selecting those with an ability to critique participants' singing abilities than being able to create a comedic tone for the show as one of their goals was to reassure celebrities they would not be ridiculed for appearing.[41] Jeong was the first panelist to be signed on due to his humour and pre-existing knowledge of the South Korean version, followed by McCarthy Wahlberg and Thicke, respectively, due to their enthusiasm regarding the concept, and Scherzinger for her positivity and experience as a singer. According to Plestis, he "only wanted [to cast] people who loved the program, not people who wanted to work on [it]".[27][41] In March 2019, Sharon Osbourne said she was supposed to be signed on as a panelist; those plans fell through after being contractually obligated to appear on The X Factor.[42]

The show's producers reach out to celebrities via agents or vice versa.[43][44] Wade said producers' goal is to cast celebrities of varying ages, genders, and backgrounds to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. They favor lesser-known celebrities the same as "super big names" because it is harder to guess them.[45] To surprise viewers with an unknown talent when unmasked, those who are not professional singers are also desired,[46] though some must send producers recordings of them singing as a quasi-audition.[11] All are given questionnaires to complete before competing and asked if they have claustrophobia.[47] Due to her strategy of sending potential participants sketches of costumes that might be featured, Ibarra said casting for the first season "was not nearly as hard as [she] anticipated", though several celebrities were reluctant to compete.[41] Following its success, an increased number were interested in participating in the second.[4] By the third, Plestis said casting became "a lot easier".[48]

Security[edit]

Before each of the participants are unmasked, the show's staff undertakes significant security precautions to prevent their identities from being released.[25] According to Plestis, the series has two bibles: one related to the format and a second, larger one for security measures.[49] Everyone involved signs a non-disclosure agreement which prevents them from disclosing information about the show until its broadcast. After a celebrity has been confirmed to appear, they are allowed to inform a few others who also sign one.[49][50] Outside of those, only about 25 people know the contestants' real names during a season, though they never refer to them as such.[41][51] Most are from Fox and the show's legal department; Cannon, director Alex Rudzinski, and the majority of the program's 150-person crew do not know who the celebrities are until they are unmasked. To prevent identities from being revealed in the event of a leak or hack, all documents (except the contract) only list participants' costume names. Although the contracts do give their real names, the series's name is unlisted.[52][53][54]

The words "don't talk to me!" in capitalized white text on a black background
The front of the oversized black sweatshirts celebrities wear while off camera[49]

The security team—which is about the same size as the production staff—is tasked with keeping contestants as isolated from each other as possible.[55][56] Before arriving on the show's set, celebrities and their family, friends, and agents are disguised and typically driven from a neutral location.[49] If driven from their house, chauffeurs are instructed to "take long, circuitous routes ... to throw off any would-be tails".[55] Decoy vehicles are also used.[57] The manager of Joey Fatone, "Rabbit" in the first season, said he was picked up at a 7-Eleven near Television City, given a disguise, and driven inside the gate.[41] "Flamingo" in the second season, Adrienne Bailon, stated she was taken to the set inside of an unmarked black car and only discussed her involvement on the show with producers in a "secret warehouse".[25] The set has different access levels[11] and each participant is escorted to and from their trailers outside of it by security guards while disguised with a mask, visor, gloves, pants, and oversized sweatshirt to prevent their skin from showing.[49][55][58] According to Scherzinger, they also escort panelists directly to their dressing rooms after arriving.[59]

Due to the show's security, celebrities said they never encountered another masked participant on set, or if they did, could not talk to them.[41][60][61] They are trained to use different body language and mannerisms than their own while performing[54] and are only allowed to talk with those who wear a special cloth on the back of their clothing which is changed each season so it cannot be replicated.[11] Notes are also written as a form of communication.[57] The production crew is discouraged from using their phones for any reason during filming[11] and the studio audience walks through a metal detector and has their phones placed in a Yondr magnetic pouch before entering the set.[25] Following each taping, the panelists' note binders are placed "in a vault" to keep them private.[62]

Design[edit]

Costumes[edit]

Five costumes featured on the series
L–R: Fox, Butterfly, Monster, Kitty, Robot. Fox was featured in an episode that won Toybina a CDG Award.[63][64]

The series's costumes are designed by Marina Toybina. In addition to her ideas, she considers fans', celebrities', and producers' requests to formulate initial concepts.[65][66][67] Each is designed to be dissimilar from those featured in previous seasons and other versions of the Masked Singer franchise by using different sewing and fabrication techniques.[67][68] After researching "fur and skin textures, historical wardrobe, [and] anything that might be relevant to each character",[67] Toybina sketches each concept with a pencil and works with an illustrator, Jarett Fajardo, to create a digital version with a 3D effect.[69][70] Producers then review each of the designs and note adjustments to be made. As a result, Toybina may sketch multiple versions before they collectively decide which will be featured during a season. Based on their background and what might suit them well, participants are presented with several to select from.[67][69] Their reason for choosing a costume can differ; some have an emotional connection while others want to move around freely during performances.[71][72]

After handpicking which fabrics and materials to use based on celebrities' mobility and performing abilities,[68] Toybina collaborates with manufacturers and a team of about 15 people to custom-make each costume.[69][70] They are created concurrently during "a very sped-up, tight schedule", taking "about three to four weeks per mask, and about four weeks for costumes".[70][73] Beginning as a wire, foam is gradually added around each mask to create an easy-to-wear helmet shape for the performers[74][75] and a chinstrap often accompanies each to prevent it from moving.[67] Referencing one of the costumes, Toybina said she enjoys adding depth to them: "The Kitty isn't just a cat, she is a vintage burlesque-style diva with all of the hand beading, feathers, and even headdress that you would expect from that."[67] As production time is limited, there is no opportunity for the team to experiment with different materials—"all garments are ... cut right away on the original fabric".[69] Since "the draping and the handwork ... [are] all done the old school way", she cited couturiers such as Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, and Hussein Chalayan as inspirations.[66][76][77] 3D printing was used for the first tme in the fourth season, and the first two-person costume, the first with animatronics, and the first puppet costume were featured.[12][78] Although adjustments may be made to customize them to celebrities' likings, the majority of costumes turn out identical to her sketches.[70][77]

A maximum of two fittings are conducted with each celebrity at either the costume shop or Toybina's studio[68][77] in which a "limited number of people"—including Toybina, a tailor, and a vocal coach—are present.[70][79][80] Before filming occurs, Toybina has creative meetings with "every single department" of the show to discuss how to perfect the look of the costumes on camera.[68] While deactivated during performances to prevent sound issues, celebrities with full-body costumes or LEDs on their masks have built-in fans to prevent them from overheating.[65] Hoods are worn to absorb sweat,[81] and hidden screens inside of each mask help them breathe and sing clearly.[67] For those who wear a mask detached from their costume's body, either a face stocking is worn or paint is used on the bottom half of their face to disguise their skin color.[4] Costumes are sanitized between tapings and repaired if needed as there are no backups.[76][79]

Set[edit]

refer to adjacent text
The stage as it appeared in the third season

According to designer James Pearse Connelly, the set is based on the Thai version of the show and was inspired by the stage designs of electronic dance music festivals. The front is X-shaped and features an LED interior (allowing for video to be played) enclosed with smoked, tinted glass, while the back is made of shiny black laminate and contains space for trap doors and special effects underneath. The performance floor is flat to prevent tripping hazards and is bordered upstage by two 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) polygon faces with wide mouths that act as entrances and exits. A curved LED screen spans the space between the two faces and a large logo of the show is hung above it. The stage is surrounded by seats for about 300 audience members and the panelists are seated together behind them on a raised platform at a mask-shaped desk. Backstage, there is a Batcave-inspired area with costumes displayed like mannequins in a museum.[12][82][83] Set pieces to help tell the story of a costume and "create the world in which [it] lives" are designed for each performance.[57] In the fourth season, many were replaced with virtual reality elements and the panelists' desk was lengthened due to social distancing requirements.[12]

Pre-performance[edit]

Ibarra said selecting which songs they sing is a collaborative process; both the performers and producers submit "ideas [which] merge as [the songs] go through the clearance process".[11] In the first season, music publishers were reluctant to grant licenses as they were not told who would be performing their songs; this process became easier by the second.[9] Producers gravitate towards songs "that help tell the overall story" of one's costume[84] and ask those who are famous singers to select songs of a different genre than they are known for so viewers will be surprised when they are revealed.[46] Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, "Ice Cream" in the second season, stated he "definitely got to pick the songs", but producers wanted them to be mainstream so the show's viewers would connect to them.[51] "Flower" in the second season, Patti LaBelle, said she selected some songs herself but was disappointed in those the producers chose for her, finding it difficult to disguise her natural voice while singing them.[85] Barry Zito, "Rhino" in the third season, remarked he sometimes fought with producers over his musical direction but appreciated being pushed outside of his comfort zone.[86] Songs are chosen and practiced in "blocks"; some may be unsung if a celebrity is eliminated before having the opportunity to perform all of them.[87]

Before the competition begins, vocal coaches and choreographers work with the celebrities for multiple days to determine their strengths and help improve their technique.[51][54] Tori Spelling, "Unicorn" in the first season, said contestants are given three weeks to practice before their first performance, although only a couple of rehearsals are conducted before then, and the amount of practice time becomes shorter as the season progresses.[88] According to Rudzinski, contestants generally practice in the week leading up to their performances. Their first rehearsals on stage occur for about half an hour the day before a taping, and a final 10–15 minute "camera dress rehearsal sequence" is conducted several hours before filming begins.[84] Celebrities may train on their own time to better compete; Kandi Burruss, the winner of the third season, stated she spent time jogging in place at her house while wearing "a ski mask and a hockey mask ... at the same time" to improve her breathing,[89] Bailon said she would "do 45 minutes of cardio" each morning,[72] and Jesse McCartney, the third season's runner-up, stated he ran "5Ks or 10Ks every day".[90] Mark Sanchez, "Baby Alien" in the fourth season, added dumbbells as weight to a backpack he wore while practicing performing at his home.[91]

Filming[edit]

Clue packages[edit]

Each celebrity attends one or two voice-over sessions to record audio for their respective clue packages. Due to the length and varying filming locations of the video component, stand-ins are used to give them additional performance practice time.[41] In the first season, the clue package videos were filmed entirely on location. Green screens were also used in subsequent seasons due to budgetary constraints.[92] No physical filming occurred in the fourth season; producers worked with Fox-owned Bento Box Entertainment to create animated videos.[12] In describing their creation, Wade said "you have to plan stuff and at least drive people down avenues". They may reveal that a contestant is an athlete, but not the sport they compete in.[10] McCartney said contestants are interviewed every week of the competition and have their answers fact-checked by producers.[93] According to Bailon, "we tell them about things that our fans might know and things that they might not know or things that only die-hard fans know."[72] Producers listen to podcasts and read contestants' books; if a fact is on Wikipedia, they try to avoid mentioning it.[94] To confuse panelists and viewers, red herrings are included.[95][96]

Performance[edit]

The exterior of Television City from a gate
Television City, the filming location of the first three seasons

Filming of the first three seasons took place at Television City in Los Angeles.[97][98][99] For the fourth, production moved to Red Studios Hollywood, which is in the same city.[12] With three episodes often filmed per week, the show has a much shorter filming schedule than others.[55][100] Dates are selected to accommodate celebrities' other activities.[49] Choosing to tape the series rather than broadcast it live was a difficult decision, Ibarra said, but a necessary one because the time commitment would have prevented some celebrities from participating.[4] Following the third season, Rudzinski said while it is unlikely an entire season would be aired live as "being able to edit helps us tell [a] story", a live broadcast remains possible.[52]

Except for the fourth season, during which the audience was virtual, a taping begins with them seated next to the stage and a warm-up comedian telling jokes to loosen them up. They are encouraged to act excited by clapping, cheering, and chanting the names of costumes while the production crew records their reactions for later use. Shortly thereafter, the panelists arrive, and the host introduces the first contestant. The clue package plays on the large screen in the studio, and the celebrity then enters and performs with at least one background singer accompanying them offstage.[25][41][101] They wear in-ear monitors[84] and may use a headset inside of their mask to sing instead of a handheld microphone, opting to use one only as a prop on stage.[102] Due to the absence of visible facial expressions, "choreography, arm gestures, and the physicality of the rest of the body" are used to create "an emotional narrative in [each] performance".[57] After a celebrity sings, their performance is conducted again with background singers only, allowing producers additional audience reactions to film.[101] During this time, they are allowed to cool down in one of the multiple air-conditioned rooms backstage.[65][103] According to Plestis, the contestants have one take to sing live.[4][49] Rob Gronkowski, "White Tiger" in the third season, said this was true; after forgetting part of a song's lyrics during a performance, he never received an offer from producers to re-record them afterwards.[104] The masked singers' vocals are intended to sound like the song's original artist; if they used Auto-Tune processing, then such effects are applied in post-production.[105]

After all performances and guesses conclude, the panelists and audience vote for their favorite singer. Except during the fourth season, the producers film the entire studio audience acting out how they would react to the moment before one's elimination, with less than two dozen "extremely well-vetted" people (either friends and family of the celebrity or some of the show's production crew) remaining on set during the reveal.[25][27][55] The celebrity is allowed to have their hair and makeup fixed backstage before they are unmasked in front of the cameras.[4][106] Brian Austin Green, who placed 14th in the fourth season as "Giraffe", described the show's eliminations as "random and ... about whether people want to see a character more or not".[81] Panelists are discouraged from researching possible answers to the clues presented to them between the filming of episodes.[107]

Series overview[edit]

Series overview
SeasonContestantsEpisodesOriginally airedWinnerRunner-upThird place
First airedLast aired
11210January 2, 2019 (2019-01-02)February 27, 2019 (2019-02-27)T-Pain
as "Monster"
Donny Osmond
as "Peacock"
Gladys Knight
as "Bee"
21613September 25, 2019 (2019-09-25)December 18, 2019 (2019-12-18)Wayne Brady
as "Fox"
Chris Daughtry
as "Rottweiler"
Adrienne Bailon
as "Flamingo"
31817February 2, 2020 (2020-02-02)May 20, 2020 (2020-05-20)Kandi Burruss
as "Night Angel"
Jesse McCartney
as "Turtle"
Bow Wow
as "Frog"
416TBASeptember 23, 2020 (2020-09-23)TBATBATBATBA

Broadcast history and release[edit]

The Masked Singer debuted on January 2, 2019, as a mid-season replacement to Star.[108] A month before the season finale on February 27, 2019,[109] Fox renewed the show for a second season.[110] In May 2019, during its upfronts for the 2019–20 United States television season, the network announced it had renewed the series for a third season to premiere as the lead-out program of Super Bowl LIV.[33] The second season premiered on September 25, 2019, and was preceded by a special "Super Sneak Peek" episode which aired two Sundays prior. Before concluding on December 18, 2019, it was pre-empted for two weeks by the broadcast of the 2019 World Series.[109][111] On February 2, 2020, following Super Bowl LIV, the third season premiered. After a special "Road to the Finals" episode aired the previous day, it culminated on May 20, 2020.[109][112] Two weeks prior, it was confirmed that the series was renewed for a fourth season to air during the 2020–21 United States television season.[113][114] Following a preview episode on September 13, it premiered on September 23, 2020.[115]

The series is aired by Fox in the United States and has been simulcasted by CTV in Canada since the second season.[116][117] Fox Corporation distributes the series in those countries while Propagate Content does so elsewhere.[118] Outside of North America, it has aired on ITV in the United Kingdom,[119] Network 10 in Australia,[120] Three in New Zealand,[121] M-Net in South Africa,[122] and Channel 5 in Singapore, among others.[23] Aside from double-length episodes, most run for about 43 minutes.[123] They are available for streaming in the United States on Hulu, Fox's website, and the Fox Now mobile app through video on demand. Since April 2020, The Masked Singer has been available for free in the country on the ad-supported service Tubi,[124][125] of which it is the highest-profile and most-watched series.[126][127] Episodes are available internationally on various localized streaming services.[128][129][130]

Reception[edit]

Television viewership and ratings[edit]

Viewership and ratings per season of The Masked Singer, including seven-day DVR playback
Season Timeslot (ET) Episodes First aired Last aired TV season Viewership
rank
Avg. viewers
(millions)
18–49
rank
Avg. 18–49
rating
Date Viewers
(millions)
Date Viewers
(millions)
1 Wednesday 9:00 p.m. 10 January 2, 2019 (2019-01-02) 12.97[131] February 27, 2019 (2019-02-27) 14.22[132] 2018–19 13 11.57 3 3.8[133]
2 Wednesday 8:00 p.m. 13 September 25, 2019 (2019-09-25) 11.37[134] December 18, 2019 (2019-12-18) 11.11[135] 2019–20 12 10.73 3 3.2[136]
3 17 February 2, 2020 (2020-02-02) 27.33[137] May 20, 2020 (2020-05-20) 10.76[138]
4 TBD September 23, 2020 (2020-09-23) 8.80[139] TBD TBD 2020–21 TBD TBD TBD TBD

The program's 2019 premiere was the highest-rated unscripted television series debut in the United States since The X Factor in 2011. Although initially dropping, ratings grew toward the end of the first season, and the finale became the most-watched episode.[140] The Masked Singer concluded the 2018–19 American television season as the highest-rated new series in the adults 18–49 key demographic[133] and the first unscripted series to rank number one in the genre in its first season since Joe Millionaire in 2003.[141] The Hollywood Reporter deemed it a "phenomenon" due to its strong DVR viewership[142] and TV Guide named it "the most underestimated show of the TV season" due to its unexpected success.[143] During the following television season, the series was one of only two non-NFL programs to charge over $200,000 per 30 seconds of advertising.[144][145] While the second season's viewership declined,[146][147] Deadline Hollywood cited it as a major reason Fox—for the first time in the network's history—ranked number one in fall entertainment programming.[148] The premiere of the third season following Super Bowl LIV became the series's most-watched episode.[149] During the latter half of the season which aired during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, it experienced—like others—double-digit ratings gains compared to the episodes broadcast before the outbreak.[100][150][151] Although the 18–49 rating was lower than the first's, the show remained the top non-sports program in the demographic.[152] The first episode of the fourth season tied for the series' lowest 18–49 rating and its viewership was 26 percent lower than the year prior.[153]

Simulcasts of the show are popular in Canada; the premiere of the second season on September 25, 2019, received 1.78 million viewers according to audience measurement company Numeris, making it one of the top 10 most watched programs of that week.[154] On February 2, 2020, the post-Super Bowl LIV premiere of the third season was viewed by 2.35 million—the most for a Super Bowl lead-out program in the country since The Voice in 2012.[155][156] It concluded the 2019–20 Canadian television season as the eighth most-watched series overall.[157] The fourth season's premiere received 1.73 million viewers, the highest for any program the week it aired.[158]

Critical response[edit]

The show has received a mixed reception from television critics. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 52 percent approval rating for the first season, with an average rating of 4 out of 10, based on 25 reviews. Its critical consensus states: "Defying all tropes of the reality competition genre, The Masked Singer manages to be both magnetically apocalyptic and inexplicably boring."[159] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the series a score of 36 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[160]

Concept and appeal[edit]

The words "dancing with the stars" in a lower case black font
Critics have compared the show favorably to fellow celebrity participatory program Dancing with the Stars.

Critics have compared the series favorably to other reality television programs. Entertainment Weekly's Joseph Longo considered it the most captivating competition series since The Voice premiered in 2011[106] and Stuart Heritage of The Guardian called it one of the best singing competition shows in a decade.[161] Writing for NBC News' Think, Ani Bundel thought the series has an advantage over Dancing with the Stars and The Voice because voting bias is less likely when competitors are unknown.[162] Kelly Lawler of USA Today agreed, praising the program for avoiding overproduced backstories, harsh criticisms, and results episodes.[163] The Daily Beast's Laura Bradley felt it was better than Dancing with the Stars because it can use costumes to generate interest instead of casting those "who seek to overplay their 15 minutes of fame".[164]

When contrasted to other series within its franchise, reviewers felt it was of lesser quality. Due to its competitors being from a variety of musical genres, Yahoo! Music editor Lyndsey Parker thought the British series was superior.[165] Despite The Masked Singer's strong viewership indicating the "changes [between it and the South Korean version] seem to have worked",[166] some felt the competition length is too slow in comparison and makes reveals occur long after established consensuses about who the celebrities are have formed, nullifying the excitement surrounding them.[29][167] The fact that performers never sing the same songs was also thought of as an "ill-advised" decision by critics as they felt it inhibits fair comparisons.[29][167][168] Drew Millard of The Outline dissented, remarking it was better than the American adaptations of Asian television series Sasuke, Iron Chef, and Brain Wall because it is "even crazier than the original".[169]

Criics have regarded the program as having a positive nature. John Doyle of The Globe and Mail cited it as an example of a cultural change in the United States away from the competitive and often exploitative essence of reality shows like American Idol.[170] Opining in The Washington Post, Sonia Rao thought the series's ethos is its support of eccentricity.[171] Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture named it the best example of escapism on television[172] and Variety's Daniel D'Addario called it a return to form for the medium as he felt it possesses the now-rare ability to uplift and unite people.[173] The way contestants are eliminated has garnered praise for being dignified,[174][175] though those of "legend[s]" such as LaBelle (placed 8th out of 16),[17] Dionne Warwick (14th out of 18),[176] and Chaka Khan (16th out of 18)[2] have been criticized for being premature.[177][178][179]

Performance and production[edit]

The costume designs have received praise for being inventive,[180] intricate,[29] and impressive,[181] while opinions of the performances have differed. The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum thought the choreography was elaborate,[182] Kristen Baldwin of Entertainment Weekly said some celebrities sound professional while others are more karaoke-like,[183] and Variety's Caroline Framke described the performances as "barely any better [than just] fine".[184] The way the show is edited has attracted criticism; guesses have been called repetitive,[172] episodes excessive in length,[161] and unmaskings slow.[185] To fix the "manufactured" feeling, Hanh Nguyen of IndieWire felt a live broadcast "would add more drama and suspense".[186] Los Angeles Times' television critic Lorraine Ali agreed, noting that viewers on the West Coast discover which celebrity is unmasked later than those on the East Coast do because the show is not aired live across all time zones.[187]

Cast and commentary[edit]

Reviews were critical when referring to the status of celebrities competing. Rob Harvilla of The Ringer wrote that they are either stars of decades past or only have thin connections to actual celebrities[188] and Ali stated that the show's "idea of celebrity is fairly elastic".[187] To her disappointment, Framke thought the series was boring due to contestants' calibers not living up to the hype it promotes them as when unmasked.[184] With both traditional Hollywood celebrities and reality show stars participating on the program, some indicated that the hierarchies of fame are no longer as defined as they once were.[180][189] Writing for Vulture, Kathryn Van Arendonk questioned whether "some celebrities [would] only commit if they were guaranteed it'd only take up two days of their schedule".[190] Referencing quotes from multiple post-elimination interviews with media outlets, Christopher Rosen of Vanity Fair felt many are "indifferent" about appearing on the program at all.[191]

The series's panelists have also received negative reviews; critics felt they spoiled the show with distracting statements and awkward interactions.[182][185][190] Describing McCarthy Wahlberg as inexperienced, Scherzinger as dull, Jeong as over-the-top, and Thicke as too serious, Lawler named them the worst panel in reality television history.[163][192] Rachel Desantis of the New York Daily News thought all except Jeong were annoying;[174] Miles Surrey of The Ringer disagreed, stating Jeong was irritating and made the panel hard to watch.[193] Their guesses have been called stupid,[194] absurd,[189] worthless,[184] and "the worst part of the [show]"[195] by those who viewed them as implausible.[188] In dissenting, The Daily Beast's Jordan Julian felt they made the panelists "surprisingly entertaining"[196] and D'Addario compared them favorably to the original American Idol judges as non-experts in their fields.[173] Cannon's role on the series has divided critics; Dara Katz of PureWow thought he was a "great host"[175] and The Washington Post's Emily Yahr felt he "was made for" the show due to his years of experience in the same role "seeing oddities" on America's Got Talent.[197] Conversely, Longo remarked that Cannon was overshadowed by the presence and commentary of McCarthy Wahlberg[106] and Doyle called him "as inarticulate as a three-year-old".[170]

Cultural impact[edit]

The show has been noted for regularly trending on social media when episodes are broadcast as users debate which celebrity could be under each costume.[23] It has generated a Reddit community where fans analyze the clues presented during an episode in an attempt to decode them. They discuss results on multiple podcasts and have replicated costumes to wear on Halloween.[11][181][198] In December 2019, students at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (of which Toybina is a graduate) were tasked with designing their own costume concepts as part of an assignment.[199] During the COVID-19 pandemic in North America, students and teachers at numerous middle schools in the United States[200][201][202] and Canada[203] participated in Masked Singer-inspired contests to maintain friendly relationships remotely.

The series was the first in its franchise to air outside of Asia and its success has been attributed to subsequent local adaptations.[25][27] It is part of the Korean Wave and follows fellow American versions of South Korean television programs Better Late Than Never and The Good Doctor.[204] The American versions of I Can See Your Voice and My Little Television have been credited to the show's success,[205][206] as has an international interest in adapting other costume-centered series such as Wild Things and Sexy Beasts.[24] It has also played a major role in Fox's success as an independent network and its in-house production company Fox Alternative Entertainment, of which it is the "centerpiece".[207][208] Due to The Masked Singer's success, Wade described a shift in the way shows are pitched, noting there is an increased openness to new ideas,[141] and predicted more direct relationships between Asian production companies and American television networks would form.[209]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and nominations
Award Year[a] Category Nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Costume Designers Guild Awards 2020 Excellence in Variety, Reality-Competition, Live Television Marina Toybina[b] Won [63]
Critics' Choice Real TV Awards 2019 Competition Series: Talent/Variety The Masked Singer Won [210]
Gracie Awards 2020 Showrunner – Unscripted Izzie Pick Ibarra Won [211]
Kids' Choice Awards 2020 Favorite Reality Show The Masked Singer Nominated [212]
Favorite TV Host Nick Cannon Nominated
MTV Movie & TV Awards 2019 Best Host Nick Cannon Nominated [213]
People's Choice Awards 2019 The Competition Show of 2019 The Masked Singer Nominated [214]
The Competition Contestant of 2019 T-Pain[c] Nominated
2020 The Show of 2020 The Masked Singer Pending [215]
The Competition Show of 2020 The Masked Singer Pending
The Competition Contestant of 2020 Kandi Burruss[d] Pending
Rob Gronkowski[e] Pending
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards 2019 Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming Marina Toybina, Grainne O'Sullivan[f] Nominated [216]
2020 Marina Toybina, Grainne O'Sullivan, Gabrielle Letamendi, Candice Rainwater[g] Won [217]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2020 Outstanding Competition Program The Masked Singer Nominated [218]
Producers Guild of America Awards 2020 Outstanding Producer of Game & Competition Television Craig Plestis, Izzie Pick Ibarra, Nikki Varhely-Gillingham, Rosie Seitchik, Stacey Thomas-Muir, Nick Cannon, Ashley Sylvester, Lindsay Tuggle, Pete Cooksley, Chelsea Candelaria, Anne Chanthavong, Zoë Ritchken, Deena Katz, Erin Brady, Jeff Kmiotek, Lexi Shoemaker[h] Nominated [219]
Realscreen Awards 2020 Talent & Studio-Based Competition The Masked Singer Won [220]
Shorty Awards 2019 Best in Entertainment Sites & Apps The Masked Singer Social Hub Nominated [221]
Teen Choice Awards 2019 Choice Reality TV Show The Masked Singer Nominated [222]

Spin-offs[edit]

The Masked Singer: After the Mask[edit]

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on television, Fox pushed back the premieres of some scripted series to late 2020 and opted to create The Masked Singer: After the Mask as one of two shows that could be produced remotely to fill the programming gap.[223] On April 8, 2020, the network announced that Cannon would host the aftershow and that it would air on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. for four weeks. During an episode, he discusses the outcome of the preceding Masked Singer episode from a "virtual stage" with celebrity guests appearing via videotelephony. A final performance from the eliminated celebrity is featured at the end of each episode, which are directed by Tom Sullivan and executive produced by Breen, Plestis, and Cannon.[224][225][226] The series is also broadcast in Canada on CTV.[227]

Viewership and ratings per episode of The Masked Singer: After the Mask
No. Title Air date Rating/share
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
1 "After the Mask: The Mother Of All Final Face Offs, Part 2" April 22, 2020 1.4/7 5.38 0.4 1.34 1.8 6.72[228]
2 "After the Mask: The Battle of The Sixes: The Final 6" April 29, 2020 1.1/6 4.35 0.3 0.94 1.4 5.29[229]
3 "After the Mask: A Quarter Mask Crisis: The Quarter Finals" May 6, 2020 0.9/5 3.79 0.2 0.86 1.1 4.65[230]
4 "After the Mask: A Day In the Mask: The Semi Finals" May 13, 2020 0.8/4 3.58 0.3 0.90 1.1 4.48[231]

The series premiere received a 1.4 rating in the adults 18–49 demographic and about 5.5 million viewers, a "pretty significant improvement" over the average ratings of the previous lead-out, Lego Masters.[232] Subsequent episodes continued to retain about half of The Masked Singer's viewers, which is considered above average for an aftershow.[100] The program concluded the 2019–20 United States television season with an average viewership of 5.29 million (ranking sixty-eighth among all series broadcast), and an average 18–49 rating of 1.4 (ranking twenty-seventh).[136] According to Variety, the series received higher ratings "than shows that probably cost ten times to produce".[233]

The Masked Dancer[edit]

Following the premiere of The Masked Singer in January 2019, Ellen DeGeneres began conducting an admitted parody, "The Masked Dancer", as a popular recurring segment on her syndicated talk show. Following a phone call from his legal department, Wade sought Ellen producers' collaboration in transforming the segment into a television series.[234][235] On January 7, 2020, at the winter Television Critics Association press tour, Fox Alternative Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television announced that they had ordered a spin-off series, The Masked Dancer, with DeGeneres as executive producer. Originally expected to debut in mid-2020, production was delayed until October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[236][237]

Other media[edit]

The exterior of the Paley Center for Media from a street view
Costumes from the first season were displayed in a special exhibit at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles.

After being worn during a season, the costumes are placed in storage and occasionally taken out for display.[103] In mid-2019, some from the first season were featured in an exhibit, "Fashion & Fantasy: The Art of The Masked Singer", at the Los Angeles Paley Center for Media, accompanied by video and Toybina's original sketches.[238] Selections were also present at the annual "Art of Television Costume Design" exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum in Los Angeles from August to October 2019.[239][240] On February 1, 2020, before the premiere of the third season, two costumes were displayed at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County as part of a meet-and-greet promotion.[241] Later that month, it was announced that the show would be getting a live tour with shows in over forty American cities featuring two celebrity hosts and a local mystery celebrity who is unmasked at the end of each.[242][243] Originally scheduled for mid-2020, the tour was later rescheduled to the following year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually postponed indefinitely.[244][245]

Hoodies, coffee mugs, and phone cases, among others using the show's branding, are available for purchase on the series's online store[246] and "family fun packs" consisting of coloring pages, a word search, and a do it yourself mask are available on its website.[247] In February 2020, toy manufacturer Jazwares announced they had partnered with Fox to release a Masked Singer-inspired karaoke microphone under their First Act brand. The microphone will include a voice-changing feature and be sold at retail later in the year.[248][249] Images of the show's logo, costumes, and stage were made available in May 2020 to users on Microsoft Teams as custom backgrounds;[250][251] others for use on Zoom followed in September.[252][253] In October, the show launched an official weekly podcast hosted by Bow Wow and executive-produced by KT Studios. In addition to a post-elimination celebrity interview, it features special guests and exclusive clues.[254][255] On Spotify, Fox's account hosts public "Masked Music" playlists which include songs performed outside of the show by participants available on the platform.[256][257]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Indicates the year of ceremony.
  2. ^ For "Season Finale: And The Winner Takes It All and Takes It Off".
  3. ^ Competed as "Monster" in the first season.
  4. ^ Competed as "Night Angel" in the third season.
  5. ^ Competed as "White Tiger" in the third season.
  6. ^ For "Season Finale: The Final Mask is Lifted".
  7. ^ For "The Season Kick off Mask Off: Group A".
  8. ^ For season 1.

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External links[edit]


Preceded by
The World's Best
2019
Super Bowl lead-out program
The Masked Singer
2020
Succeeded by
TBA