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The Masked Singer (American TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Masked Singer
The words "The Masked Singer" in a gold-colored, capitalized typeface appearing in front of a 3D mask design
GenreReality competition
Based onKing of Mask Singer
by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation
Developed byCraig Plestis
Directed by
  • Alex Rudzinski
  • Brad Duns[1]
Presented byNick Cannon
Starring
Opening theme"Who Are You"
by The Who
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes68 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Craig Plestis
  • Izzie Pick Ibarra
  • Rosie Seitchik
  • Nick Cannon
  • James Breen
Running time41–85 minutes
Production companies
Distributor
Release
Original networkFox
Picture format720p (HDTV)[2]
Audio format5.1 surround sound
(Dolby Digital)[2]
Original releaseJanuary 2, 2019 (2019-01-02) –
present
Chronology
Related shows
External links
Website

The Masked Singer (abbreviated as TMS[3]) is an American reality singing competition television series that premiered on Fox on January 2, 2019. It is part of the Masked Singer franchise which began in South Korea and features celebrities singing songs while wearing head-to-toe costumes and face masks concealing their identities. Hosted by Nick Cannon, the program employs panelists who guess the celebrities' identities by interpreting clues provided to them throughout each season. Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Nicole Scherzinger, and Robin Thicke appear in each episode and vote alongside an audience for their favorite singer after all perform. The least popular is eliminated, taking off their mask to reveal their identity.

The winners of the first five seasons were T-Pain as "Monster", Wayne Brady as "Fox", Kandi Burruss as "Night Angel", LeAnn Rimes as "Sun", and Nick Lachey as "Piglet", respectively. To prevent their identities from being revealed before each prerecorded episode is broadcast, the program makes extensive use of code names, disguises, non-disclosure agreements, and 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 ensuring the celebrities can sing clearly while wearing them. In recognition of the costume design, Toybina won a Costume Designers Guild Award and a Creative Arts Emmy Award. Other production staff have won or been nominated for various labor union awards, and the show received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Competition Program.

The series has received the highest Nielsen ratings for a non-sports program in the adults 18–49 key demographic each television season it has aired. Two spin-offs—an aftershow and a dance version, The Masked Dancer—have followed as a result. The growth of the Masked Singer franchise has been credited to the show's success, as has an interest in adapting similar South Korean reality television series and other television formats centered on costumes. In May 2021, Fox renewed the show for a sixth season to premiere at the start of the 2021–22 television season.

Format

Each season of The Masked Singer features a group of celebrity contestants. In a typical episode, four to six contestants each sing a 90-second[4] cover for panelists and an audience anonymously in costume. Hints to their identities—known as the "clue package"—are given before and occasionally after each performs. The perennial format is a taped interview with a celebrity's electronically masked voice narrating a video showing cryptic allusions to what they are known for. During screenings of the clue packages, after performances, and before an elimination, the panelists are given time to speculate each singer's identity out loud and write comments in note binders. They may ask questions and the host may offer additional clues. After performances conclude, the audience and panelists vote for their favorite singer using an electronic device. The show uses a weighted voting system; panelists' and audience members' votes are worth 50 percent each and combined to form a score.[5] The least popular contestant then takes off their mask to reveal their identity. This process of elimination continues for a set number of episodes until three contestants remain in the season finale, and one is declared the winner after they perform again. The "Golden Mask" trophy is awarded as a prize.

Voting does not occur for certain performances; contestants in an episode occasionally sing as a group, and each episode concludes with the eliminated celebrity singing an encore unmasked. To continue attracting viewers, producers often modify the format each season.[6][7] Except in the first and fifth seasons, a "smackdown" round is featured 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. Since the second season, the contestants are initially divided and only compete in a designated subgroup. A "Golden Ear" trophy awarded to the panelist with the most correct first impression 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.[8][9] These elements continued in the fifth seasons, and "wildcard" contestants who perform at the end of certain episodes competed for the first time.[7]

Panelists and host

The permanent panel consists of actor and comedian Ken Jeong, television personality Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, recording artist Nicole Scherzinger, and singer-songwriter Robin Thicke.[10][11] A guest occasionally appears as a fifth panelist during an episode;[12] Joel McHale has served as a guest panelist in every season[13] and previous seasons' winners have appeared.[14] Nick Cannon hosts the show; his role was considered unclear in July 2020 after making anti-Semitic statements Fox said "inadvertently promoted hate".[10][15] The network accepted Cannon's apology,[10][15] and he pledged to donate his first paycheck from the fourth season to the Simon Wiesenthal Center after visiting with its officials.[16][17] Niecy Nash acted as guest host for the first five episodes of the fifth season after Cannon tested positive for COVID-19.[6]

Production

Conception and development

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.[18]

The Masked Singer is based on the 2015 South Korean television series King of Mask Singer, which is the originator of the Masked Singer franchise. Executive producer Craig Plestis noticed the format in October 2017 at Khao Soi, a small Thai restaurant in Studio City, Los Angeles.[19][20][21] 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 researched 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 (MBC).[22] With the help of his agent, Steve Wohl of Paradigm Talent Agency, Plestis secured the rights to produce an American adaptation from the company.[18] Following the creation of a showreel, he pitched the series to several outlets, all of whom rejected the idea.[22] Plestis then met with Fox executive Rob Wade who said he "responded ... right away" to the concept and considered its uniqueness among celebrity singing competitions a strength.[18][22] After successfully pitching the program under the condition A-list celebrities participate,[21][23] Plestis began developing it in November.[24]

In January 2018, executive producer and showrunner Izzie Pick Ibarra became involved to help cast celebrities and Americanize the format.[21][25] While The Masked Singer retains elements of the South Korean version, the structure and style are different.[26] Rather than follow a tournament process in which singers perform against each other in multiple rounds, with the winner of the final round facing the previous episode's champion in an attempt to become the new "Mask King", Pick Ibarra opted to produce one elimination per episode, emphasize the clue package and guessing components, and have the celebrities wear more extravagant costumes.[21][27] Plestis agreed, wanting to create a story arc throughout the episodes and—unlike the South Korean show—reuse the costumes.[18] During performances, the production value is emphasized rather than panelists guessing which celebrity is singing.[26]

On August 2, 2018, Fox ordered the series and released a trailer.[28][29] Endemol Shine North America produced the first season due to Plestis' relationship with the studio. Following it, production transitioned to a new in-house studio, Fox Alternative Entertainment, which is more financially favorable for the network.[30][31] Since the second and third seasons, respectively, Rosie Seitchik and Cannon have served as executive producers alongside Plestis. Pick Ibarra exited the series following the third and James Breen assumed her roles in subsequent seasons.[32][33] Numerous production and format changes were implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and testing and safety requirements increased the show's budget.[8][34]

Casting

Since signing a deal with him in 2018, Fox offered Cannon multiple opportunities to host or produce other television programs, though none interested him. After being fascinated by the Masked Singer concept when presented with it, Cannon joined the show, believing it was "either going to be a huge failure or a huge hit".[35] Pick Ibarra cited him as her number one choice for the role because of his personality and experience. Regarding the panelists, she said the production team was less concerned with selecting those with an ability to critique participants' singing abilities than creating a comedic tone for the series as one of their goals was to reassure celebrities they would not be ridiculed for appearing.[36] 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 because of 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]".[23][36] Thicke later questioned whether he would have taken the role "if [he had] still been No. 1 on the radio"[37] and Scherzinger said she signed on to the show the day before filming began.[38] Unsure whether it would last more than one season, Jeong originally considered The Masked Singer a temporary job while he looked for a permanent role following the cancellation of his sitcom Dr. Ken.[6] In March 2019, Sharon Osbourne stated she was supposed to be signed on as a panelist; those plans fell through after being contractually obligated to appear as a judge on The X Factor.[39]

The show's producers reach out to celebrities via agents or vice versa.[40][41] 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.[42] To surprise viewers with an unknown talent when unmasked, those who are not professional singers are desired,[43] though some must send producers recordings of them singing as a quasi-audition.[44] All are given questionnaires before competing and asked if they have claustrophobia.[45] Due to her strategy of sending potential participants sketches of costumes that might be featured, Pick Ibarra said casting for the first season "was not nearly as hard as [she] anticipated", though several celebrities were reluctant to compete.[36] Following its success, an increased number were interested in participating in the second.[5] By the third, Plestis said casting became "a lot easier".[46]

Security

Before each participant is unmasked, the show's staff undertake significant security precautions to prevent the release of their identities.[21] According to Plestis, the series has two bibles: one related to the format and a second, larger one for security measures. Everyone involved signs a non-disclosure agreement which prevents them from releasing information about the show until its broadcast. After a celebrity is confirmed to appear, they are allowed to inform a few others who also sign one.[47][48] Outside of those, approximately 25 people know the contestants' real names during a season, though they never refer to them as such.[21][36][49] 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' name is unlisted.[49][50][51]

The words "don't talk to me!" in capitalized white text on a black background
The front of hoodies celebrities wear while off camera[47]

Before arriving on the show's set, celebrities and their family, friends, and agents are disguised and typically driven from a neutral location.[47] If driven from their houses, chauffeurs are instructed to "take long, circuitous routes ... to throw off any would-be tails".[52] 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.[36] "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".[21] When contestants arrive on the studio lot, personnel at the gate are not their given names.[44] Each participant is escorted to and from their trailers outside of the set by security guards while disguised with a mask, visor, gloves, pants, and a hoodie to prevent their skin from showing.[47][52] According to Scherzinger, they also escort panelists directly to their dressing rooms after arriving.[53]

Due to the show's security, celebrities said they never encountered another masked participant on set, or if they did, could not speak to them.[36][54][55] They are only allowed to communicate with those who wear a special cloth on the back of their clothing which is changed each season to prevent replication or those who wear a shirt with the words "Talk to Me".[44][56] To do so, they use a portable voice changer or write on a whiteboard.[56] Before performing, they are trained to use different body language and mannerisms than their own.[49] The production crew is discouraged from using their phones during filming[44] and the studio audience walks through a metal detector and has their phones placed in a Yondr magnetic pouch before entering the set.[21] The panelists also forfeit their phones during tapings, and their note binders are placed "in a vault" after each to keep them private.[57]

Design

Costumes

Five costumes featured on the series
L–R: "Fox", "Butterfly", "Monster", "Kitty", and "Robot". "Robot" competed in an episode that won Toybina a Creative Arts Emmy Award.[58][59]

The series' costumes are designed by Marina Toybina. In addition to her ideas, she considers celebrities' and producers' requests to formulate initial concepts.[60][61] 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.[61][62] After researching "fur and skin textures, historical wardrobe, [and] anything that might be relevant to each character",[61] Toybina sketches each concept with a pencil and works with an illustrator, Jarett Fajardo, to create a digital version with a 3D effect.[63][64] Producers review each design 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.[61][63] Their reason for choosing a costume can differ; some have an emotional connection[44][65] while others want to move around freely during performances.[54][66]

After handpicking which fabrics and materials to use based on celebrities' mobility and performing abilities,[62] Toybina collaborates with manufacturers and a team of about 15 people to custom-make each costume.[63][64] They are created concurrently over two to three months, taking about two to four weeks per mask, and two to four weeks per costume.[64][67] Beginning as a wire, foam is gradually added around each mask to create an easy-to-wear helmet shape for the performers[68][69] and a chinstrap often accompanies each to prevent movement.[61] As production time is limited, the team has no opportunity to experiment with different materials—"all garments are ... cut right away on the original fabric".[63] Since "the draping and the handwork [are] all done the old school way",[70] she cited couturiers such as Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, and Hussein Chalayan as inspirations.[60][71] 3D printing was used for the first time in the fourth season, and the first two-person costume, the first with animatronics, and the first puppet costume were featured.[8][11] Although adjustments may be made to customize them to celebrities' likings, most costumes turn out identical to her sketches.[64][71]

A maximum of two fittings are conducted with each celebrity[62][72] at either the costume shop or Toybina's studio[71] in which a "limited number of people" are present.[64] Before filming occurs, Toybina conducts creative meetings with "every single department" of the show to discuss how to perfect the costumes' looks on camera.[62] Contestants are in costume for no more than 30 minutes at once.[56] During this time, they may wear cooling vests to limit heat exposure and hoods to absorb sweat.[73][74] Hidden screens inside each mask help them breathe and sing clearly.[61] For those who wear a mask detached from their costume's body, a face stocking, paint, or makeup is used to disguise their skin color.[5][56] Costumes are sanitized between tapings and repaired if needed as no backups exist.[70][72]

Set

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

According to its designer James Pearse Connelly, the set is based on the Thai version of the show and is 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 as entrances and exits. A curved LED screen spans the space between the faces and a large logo of the show is hung above it.[75]

The stage is surrounded by seats for about 300 audience members[8] and the panelists are seated behind them on a raised platform at a mask-shaped desk.[75] The panelists' placement away from the stage allows them to move around during performances, helping the director tell a story.[56] Rather than sitting and speaking into a microphone attached to the desk which would limit their mobility, the panelists wear miniature headsets made by Shure.[76] Many on-stage set pieces were replaced with virtual reality elements and the panelists' desk was lengthened due to social distancing requirements during filming in the COVID-19 pandemic.[8] Backstage, a Batcave-inspired area contains costumes displayed like mannequins in a museum.[75]

Song selection and rehearsals

Pick 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".[44] While music publishers were reluctant to grant licenses for use in the first season as they were not told who would be performing their songs, this process became easier by the second.[77] Producers gravitate towards songs "that help tell the overall story" of one's costume[50] and ask those who are famous singers to select songs of a genre they are not known for so viewers will be surprised when they are revealed.[43] 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 viewers would connect to them.[78] Other contestants remarked they sometimes disagreed with producers' song choices.[79][80] Multiple songs are chosen and practiced at the same time; some may be unperformed if a contestant is eliminated.[81]

Before the competition, vocal coaches and choreographers work with the celebrities for multiple days to determine their strengths and help improve their technique.[49][78] 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.[82] 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 10–15 minute "camera dress rehearsal sequence" is conducted several hours before filming.[50] Celebrities may train on their own time to better compete; several said they did cardio exercises to prepare for performances.[83][84][85]

Filming

Clue packages

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.[36] In describing their creation, Wade said "you have to plan stuff and at least drive people down avenues". They may reveal a contestant is an athlete, but not the sport they compete in.[86] McCartney said contestants are interviewed every week of the competition and have their answers fact-checked by producers.[87] 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."[66] Producers listen to podcasts and read contestants' books; if a fact is on Wikipedia, they try to avoid mentioning it.[88] No physical filming occurred in the fourth season; producers worked with Fox-owned Bento Box Entertainment to create animated videos.[8]

Performances

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. For the fourth, production moved to Red Studios Hollywood, which is in the same city.[8] With three episodes often filmed per week, the show has a much shorter filming schedule than others.[52][89] Dates are selected to accommodate celebrities' other activities.[47] Choosing to tape the series rather than broadcast it live was a difficult decision, Pick Ibarra said, but a necessary one because the time commitment would have prevented celebrities from participating.[5] Following the third season, Rudzinski said while an entire season would unlikely be aired live as "being able to edit helps us tell [a] story", a live broadcast remains possible.[50] Before performances occur, Rudzinski receives detailed musical breakdowns of the songs contestants will sing. Based on their beat and structure, he creates a storyboard for each performance.[56]

Except for the fourth and fifth seasons, 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 enters and performs with at least one background singer accompanying them offstage.[21][36][90] They wear in-ear monitors[50] 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.[91] A teleprompter displays song lyrics as an aid.[54] According to Plestis, the contestants have one take to sing live.[5][47] Rob Gronkowski, "White Tiger" in the third season, said this was true; after missing lyrics during a performance, he never received an offer from producers to re-record them afterwards.[92] The contestants' vocals are intended to sound like the songs' original artists; if they used Auto-Tune processing, then such effects are applied in post-production.[93]

After a celebrity sings, their performance is conducted again with background singers only, allowing producers additional audience reactions to film.[90] During this time, they are allowed to cool down in one of the air-conditioned rooms backstage.[94] After all performances and guesses conclude, the panelists and audience vote for their favorite singer. Except during the fourth and fifth seasons, the producers film the studio audience acting out how they would react to one's elimination, with less than two dozen "extremely well-vetted" people (either friends and family of the celebrity or the show's production crew) remaining on set during the actual reveal.[21][23][52] The celebrity is allowed to have their hair and makeup fixed backstage before they are unmasked on camera.[5][95] As they reveal themselves, the panelists and audience chant "take! it! off!" and "Who Are You" by the Who—which is also the show's opening theme song—plays in the background.[96][97] Afterward, panelists are discouraged from researching possible answers to the clues presented to them for contestants remaining in the competition between episode tapings.[98]

Series overview

Series overview
SeasonContestantsEpisodesOriginally airedWinnerRunner-upThird placeRef.
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"
[99][100]
21613September 25, 2019 (2019-09-25)December 18, 2019 (2019-12-18)Wayne Brady
as "Fox"
Chris Daughtry
as "Rottweiler"
Adrienne Bailon
as "Flamingo"
[99][101]
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"
[99][102]
41612September 23, 2020 (2020-09-23)December 16, 2020 (2020-12-16)LeAnn Rimes
as "Sun"
Aloe Blacc
as "Mushroom"
Nick Carter
as "Crocodile"
[99][103]
51411March 10, 2021 (2021-03-10)May 26, 2021 (2021-05-26)Nick Lachey
as "Piglet"
JoJo
as "Black Swan"
Wiz Khalifa
as "Chameleon"
[99][104]
SpecialsN/A5September 15, 2019 (2019-09-15)April 28, 2021 (2021-04-28)N/AN/AN/A[99]

Broadcast history and release

The Masked Singer debuted on January 2, 2019, as a mid-season replacement to Star.[105] A month before the season finale on February 27, 2019,[99] Fox renewed the show for a second season.[106] During its upfronts for the 2019–20 United States television season in May 2019, the network renewed the series for a third season to launch as the lead-out of Super Bowl LIV.[30] The second season premiered on September 25, 2019, and was preceded by a "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.[99][107] On February 2, 2020, the third season premiered following Super Bowl LIV. After a "Road to the Finals" episode aired the previous day, it culminated on May 20, 2020.[99][108] Two weeks prior, the series was renewed for a fourth season to air during the 2020–21 television season.[109][110] Following a preview episode on September 13, it premiered on September 23, 2020.[111] One week of the season was pre-empted due to the 2020 World Series.[112] Two weeks before the finale on December 16, 2020, the series was renewed for a fifth season,[113] which premiered on March 10, 2021.[33] On May 17, 2021, Fox renewed the series for a sixth season a week before the fifth season's finale on May 26.[114]

The program is aired by Fox in the United States and has been simulcasted by CTV in Canada since the second season.[115][116] Fox Entertainment distributes the series in those countries while Propagate Content does so elsewhere.[117][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.[19] 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.[124][125] The Masked Singer is also available on the American ad-supported service Tubi,[124][125] where it became the most-watched series less than two months after its April 2020 debut and is used to attract new viewers to the platform.[126][127] Episodes are available internationally on localized streaming services.[128][129][130]

Reception

Television viewership and ratings

Viewership and ratings per season of The Masked Singer. TV season ranks/averages include 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) 9.37[131] February 27, 2019 (2019-02-27) 11.48[132] 2018–19 13 11.57 3 3.8[133]
2 Wednesday 8:00 p.m. 13 September 25, 2019 (2019-09-25) 8.03[134] December 18, 2019 (2019-12-18) 8.36[135] 2019–20 12 10.73 3 3.2[136]
3 17 February 2, 2020 (2020-02-02) 23.70[137] May 20, 2020 (2020-05-20) 9.01[138]
4 12 September 23, 2020 (2020-09-23) 5.92[139] December 16, 2020 (2020-12-16) 7.41[140] 2020–21 23 7.56 3 2.0[141]
5 11 March 10, 2021 (2021-03-10) 5.66[142] May 26, 2021 (2021-05-26) 5.51[143]

In both 2019 and 2020, the show was named the "Hottest Reality/Competition Series" in the United States by Adweek.[144][145] Excluding post-NFL game debuts, the program's premiere was the highest-rated for an unscripted television series in the country since The X Factor in 2011.[146] Ratings grew toward the end of the first season,[98] and 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.[147] Media outlets considered its success unexpected,[20][31][148] and TV Guide named it the television season's "most underestimated show".[149] During the following television season, the series was one of two non-NFL programs to charge over $200,000 per 30 seconds of advertising.[150] Deadline Hollywood cited the second season as a major reason Fox—for the first time in the network's history—ranked number one in fall entertainment programming.[151]

The premiere of the third season following Super Bowl LIV became the series' most-watched episode.[137] Throughout the season's latter half which aired amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, its episodes experienced—like others—double-digit ratings gains compared to those broadcast before the outbreak.[89][152][153] Although the 18–49 rating was lower than the first's, the show remained the top non-sports program in the demographic.[154] During the 2020–21 United States television season, ad prices for the show increased 12 percent to about $226,000 per 30 seconds.[155] While the highest-rated entertainment broadcast since the third season's finale,[144] the first episode of the fourth season tied for the series' lowest at the time.[156] A broadcast following a Thanksgiving NFL game was the most-watched and highest-rated of the series excluding the post-Super Bowl episode since the first season's finale.[157][158] With the fourth and fifth season's ratings, The Masked Singer remained the highest-rated entertainment program among adults 18–49 for the third consecutive television season.[133][159]

Simulcasts of the show are popular in Canada; all of the premieres and finales have ranked within the top 10 most-watched programs in the weeks they aired according to audience measurement company Numeris.[160][161] The post-Super Bowl LIV premiere of the third season was viewed by 2.35 million—the most for a Super Bowl lead-out in the country since 2012.[161][162] It concluded the 2019–20 Canadian television season as the eighth most-watched series overall.[163] In Australia, The Masked Singer debuted on September 30, 2020, to ratings significantly smaller than others in its timeslot. With 285,000 viewers, The Music attributed its low viewership to a culture barrier and that reveals are well-publicized by the time the series airs.[164] After viewership fell to 125,000 a month later, the program was moved to a less favorable timeslot.[165]

Critical response

The show received a mixed reception from television critics; their critiques were classified as "befuddled" by The Hollywood Reporter.[166] 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."[167] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the series a score of 36 out of 100 based on 10 critics reviewing the first season, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[168]

Concept and appeal

Critics contrasted the series to other reality television programs in the United States. Entertainment Weekly's Joseph Longo considered it the most captivating competition series since The Voice premiered in 2011,[95] and Stuart Heritage of The Guardian called it one of the best singing competition shows in a decade.[169] 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.[170] Kelly Lawler of USA Today agreed, praising the avoidance of overproduced backstories, harsh criticisms, and results episodes.[171] The Daily Beast's Laura Bradley felt it was better than Dancing with the Stars because costumes can be used to generate interest instead of casting those "who seek to overplay their 15 minutes of fame".[172] As she considered its format more complex than Top Chef or Dancing with the Stars, Erin Schwartz of The Nation considered The Masked Singer's success surprising.[173]

The show received comparisons to the original version of the franchise. Despite its strong viewership indicating the "changes [between it and the South Korean version] seem to have worked",[174] 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.[27][52][175] While contestants on the South Korean series sing the same songs during a duet round, producers' decision not to do so in the American version was also thought of as an "ill-advised" decision by critics as they felt it inhibits fair comparisons.[27][175][176] Conversely, for V's Hannah Hightman, the series "retains the bizarreness of King of Mask Singer but adds a distinctly American style, creating an infectiously fun reality TV classic".[177] According to Drew Millard of The Outline, the show is better than previous American adaptations of Asian television series because it is "even crazier than the original".[178]

Critics regarded the program as having a positive nature. John Doyle of The Globe and Mail cited it as a cultural change in the United States away from the competitive and often exploitative essence of reality shows like American Idol.[179] Opining in The Washington Post, Sonia Rao thought the series' ethos is its support of eccentricity.[180] Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture named it the best example of escapism on television,[181] and Variety's Daniel D'Addario called it a return to form for the medium as he thought it possesses the now-rare ability to uplift and unite people.[182] Lawler agreed, remarking it was perhaps "the only reality TV show that doesn't manufacture its fun".[171] Schwartz considered it "the rare show on television that allows viewers to turn off their brains, sit back, and enjoy" and felt panelists complement competitors despite the quality of their performances.[173] The way contestants are eliminated has garnered praise for being dignified,[148][183] though those of "vocal legend[s]" such as LaBelle (placed 8th out of 16),[1] Dionne Warwick (14th out of 18),[184] and Chaka Khan (16th out of 18)[185] have been criticized for being premature.[186][187][188]

Performance and production

The costume designs have received praise for being inventive,[189] intricate,[27] and impressive.[96][190] Opinions of the performances have differed; Variety's Caroline Framke described them as mediocre,[190]The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum thought the choreography was elaborate,[191] and Entertainment Weekly's Kristen Baldwin said some celebrities sound professional while others are more karaoke-like.[192] The way the show is edited has attracted criticism; guesses have been called repetitive,[181] episodes excessive in length,[169] and unmaskings slow.[193] Writing for Decider, Joel Keller found the program's pacing overwhelming.[194] To fix the "manufactured" feeling, Hanh Nguyen of IndieWire felt a live broadcast would add excitement, as did those from Gold Derby and E! Online.[195][196][197] Los Angeles Times' television critic Lorraine Ali noted 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.[97]

Cast and commentary

Reviewers referred 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[198] and Ali stated the show's "idea of celebrity is fairly elastic".[97] According to Hannah Hightman, the series is "a haven for B-list celebs".[177] Similarly, Alison de Souza of The Straits Times said the series has never featured an A-lister.[19] With both traditional Hollywood celebrities and reality show stars participating, some indicated the hierarchies of fame are no longer as defined as they once were.[189][199] Conversely, Adam White of The Daily Telegraph attributed the show's success in part to the "relative starriness of its participants"[200] and the BBC's Neil Smith considered it a "particularly starry" version of the franchise.[201] In her book Transnational Korean Television, the scholar Hyejung Ju argued almost all of the contestants are well-known.[26] In contrast to the New Zealand edition, Jenni Mortimer of The New Zealand Herald said "the celebrity pull on the US version is huge".[202]

Critics felt the panelists undermined the program with pointless statements and awkward interactions.[191][193][203] Describing McCarthy Wahlberg as inexperienced, Scherzinger as dull, Jeong as over-the-top, and Thicke as too serious, Kelly Lawler named them the worst panel in reality television history.[171][204] Rachel Desantis of the New York Daily News thought all except Jeong were unfunny;[148] Miles Surrey of The Ringer disagreed, stating Jeong was annoying.[205] Quartz's Adam Epstein predicted the panelists could be the show's downfall.[206] Their guesses have been called stupid,[207] absurd,[199] worthless,[190] and "the worst part of the [show]"[208] by those who viewed them as implausible.[198] In dissenting, The Daily Beast's Jordan Julian felt they made the panelists "surprisingly entertaining"[209] and D'Addario compared the panelists favorably to the original American Idol judges who he perceived as non-experts in their fields.[182]

Cannon's role on the series has divided critics. 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,[210] and Keller thought he "learned his lesson" from that program by being less distracting.[194] Conversely, Longo remarked Cannon was overshadowed by the presence and commentary of McCarthy Wahlberg[95] and Doyle called him "as inarticulate as a three-year-old".[179]

Cultural impact

The show regularly trends on the social media platforms Twitter and Reddit when episodes are broadcast as users debate which celebrity could be under each costume.[19][56] It generated a Reddit community where fans analyze the clues presented during an episode in an attempt to decode them. They discuss results on podcasts and have replicated costumes to wear on Halloween.[96][211] In December 2019, students at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (of which Toybina is a graduate) were tasked with designing costume concepts as part of an assignment.[212] During the COVID-19 pandemic in North America, students and teachers at numerous middle schools in the United States and Canada participated in Masked Singer-inspired contests to maintain friendly relationships remotely.[213] In April 2021, an unofficial online fundraiser version of the show featuring Broadway performers titled Broadway's Masked Singer was held in support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.[214]

The series' success is attributed to subsequent local adaptations of the Masked Singer franchise.[21][215] It is part of the Korean Wave and follows fellow late 2010s American television shows Better Late Than Never and The Good Doctor, which are also based on South Korean programs.[216][217][218] International interest in adapting other costume-centered formats such as Wild Things and Sexy Beasts has been credited to the series' success,[20] as has the debut of other guessing game shows on Fox.[219][220] An American version of the South Korean game show I Can See Your Voice, which features contestants guessing whether singers are good or bad without hearing them sing for a chance to win money, began airing on the network in 2020. Jeong hosts along with a panel and a "musical superstar" who aid the contestant. It followed episodes of The Masked Singer's fourth season, creating a two-hour programming block based on South Korean formats and featuring Jeong.[219][219][221] Game of Talents, another international guessing game adaptation, is hosted by season two winner Wayne Brady and aired after episodes of The Masked Singer's fifth season.[220]

The program has played a major role in Fox's success as an independent network and in-house production company Fox Alternative Entertainment.[222][223] As a result, Wade described an increased openness to new ideas when shows are pitched.[147] He also predicted more direct relationships between Asian production companies and American television networks would form.[224] Masked Singer was MBC's first format sold to the United States market.[29] Plestis subsequently signed a deal with Tokyo Broadcasting System to develop new television formats and launched an American edition of the South Korean game show My Little Television for TBS.[225][226] Due in part to her success with The Masked Singer, British production company Studio Lambert signed a similar deal with Pick Ibarra.[25]

Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations
Award Year[a] Category Nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
American Reality Television Awards 2020 Competition Show The Masked Singer Nominated [227][228]
2021 The Masked Singer Pending [229]
Art Directors Guild Awards 2021 Variety, Reality or Competition Series James Pearse Connelly[b] Nominated [230]
Costume Designers Guild Awards 2020 Excellence in Variety, Reality-Competition, Live Television Marina Toybina[c] Won [231]
2021 Marina Toybina[d] Nominated [232]
Critics' Choice Real TV Awards 2019 Best Competition Series: Talent/Variety The Masked Singer Won [233]
2021 The Masked Singer Pending [234]
Gracie Awards 2020 Showrunner – Unscripted Izzie Pick Ibarra Won [235]
Guild of Music Supervisors Awards 2021 Best Music Supervision – Reality Television Meryl Ginsberg[e] Won [236]
Live Design Design Achievement Awards 2021 Unscripted Series Simon Miles, Natacha Hatch[f] Shortlisted [237][238]
Kids' Choice Awards 2020 Favorite Reality Show The Masked Singer Nominated [239]
Favorite TV Host Nick Cannon Nominated
2021 Favorite Reality Show The Masked Singer Nominated [240]
MTV Movie & TV Awards 2019 Best Host Nick Cannon Nominated [241]
2021 Best Competition Series The Masked Singer Nominated [242]
NewscastStudio Broadcast Production Awards 2019 Set Design Entertainment JPConnelly Honorable mention [243]
2021 JPConnelly[g] Won [244]
People's Choice Awards 2019 The Competition Show of 2019 The Masked Singer Nominated [245]
The Competition Contestant of 2019 T-Pain[h] Nominated
2020 The Show of 2020 The Masked Singer Nominated [246]
The Competition Show of 2020 The Masked Singer Nominated
The Competition Contestant of 2020 Kandi Burruss[i] Nominated
Rob Gronkowski[j] Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards 2019 Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming Marina Toybina, Grainne O'Sullivan[k] Nominated [247]
2020 Marina Toybina, Grainne O'Sullivan, Gabrielle Letamendi, Candice Rainwater[l] Won [58]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2020 Outstanding Competition Program The Masked Singer Nominated [58]
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[m] Nominated [248]
2021 Craig Plestis, Izzie Pick Ibarra, Rosie Seitchik, Nick Cannon, James Breen, Deena Katz, Lindsay Tuggle, Chris Wagner, Patrizia DiMaria, Brian Updyke, Jeff Kmiotek, Lauren Taylor Harding, Nick Campagna, Erin Brady, Tiana Gandelman, Kristin Campbell-Taylor, Lindsay John, Dom Worden, Peter Hebri, Zoë Ritchken, Lexi Shoemaker, Mike Riccio, Emily Smith, Chelsea Candelaria, Joseph Warwick[n] Nominated [249]
Realscreen Awards 2020 Talent & Studio-Based Competition The Masked Singer Won [250]
2021 The Masked Singer Nominated [251]
Shorty Awards 2019 Best in Entertainment Sites & Apps The Masked Singer Social Hub Nominated [252]
Teen Choice Awards 2019 Choice Reality TV Show The Masked Singer Nominated [253]

Spin-offs

The Masked Singer: After the Mask

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on television, Fox postponed 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.[254] Cannon hosts the aftershow; it aired on Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. (ET) for four weeks following episodes of the third season during which he discusses the outcome of the preceding Masked Singer episode from a "virtual stage" with guests appearing via videotelephony. A 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.[255][256][257] CTV broadcast the series in Canada.[258]

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.[259] Subsequent episodes continued to retain about half of The Masked Singer's viewers, which is considered above average for an aftershow.[89] Including DVR, 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, it received higher ratings "than shows that probably cost ten times to produce".[260]

The Masked Dancer

Following the premiere of The Masked Singer in January 2019, Ellen DeGeneres began conducting a parody, "The Masked Dancer", as a popular recurring segment on her daytime talk show. On January 7, 2020, Fox Alternative Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television announced plans to broadcast The Masked Dancer as a television series.[261][262][263] Craig Robinson hosts the show, and Jeong, Brian Austin Green, Paula Abdul, and Ashley Tisdale act as panelists. Like The Masked Singer's format, celebrity contestants wear head-to-toe costumes and face masks concealing their identities, but perform alongside a "masked partner" in different dance styles.[264][265][266] It premiered on Fox on December 27, 2020.[267]

Other media

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

After being worn during a season, the costumes are placed in storage and occasionally displayed.[94] In mid-2019, some from the first season were accompanied by video and Toybina's original sketches in an exhibit, "Fashion & Fantasy: The Art of The Masked Singer", at the Los Angeles Paley Center for Media.[268] 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.[269][270] On February 1, 2020, two costumes were displayed at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County as part of a meet-and-greet promotion.[271] For a week in May 2021, costumes from the fifth season were shown in a West Hollywood, California storefront as part of a For Your Consideration campaign for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards.[272]

Hoodies, coffee mugs, phone cases, and other merchandise using the show's branding are purchasable on the series' online store.[273] "Family fun packs" consisting of coloring pages, a word search, and a do it yourself mask were once downloadable on its website,[274] as were official Giphy stickers, clue notebooks, Bingo cards, and phone wallpapers.[275] Images of the series' logo, costumes, and stage were made available in May 2020 to users on Microsoft Teams as custom backgrounds;[276][277] others for use on Zoom followed in September.[278][279] In October, the show launched an official weekly podcast hosted by Bow Wow. In addition to a post-elimination celebrity interview, it features guests and extra clues.[280][281] During the fifth season, viewers could use the Fox Bet Super 6 app to answer questions about each episode and be entered into weekly draws to win money, including a grand prize of $100,000.[7]

In February 2020, it was announced that the program would be getting a live tour with shows in over forty American cities featuring two celebrity hosts and a local mystery celebrity who would be unmasked at the end of each.[282][283] Originally scheduled for mid-2020, the tour was later postponed to the following year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually delayed indefinitely.[284][285] In June 2021, Plestis said plans are being materialized and that he hopes it will occur in 2022.[286]

Notes

  1. ^ Indicates the year of ceremony
  2. ^ For "The Season Premiere – The Masks Return"
  3. ^ For "Season Finale: And The Winner Takes It All and Takes It Off"
  4. ^ For "The Semi Finals - The Super Six"
  5. ^ For season three
  6. ^ For season two
  7. ^ For season four
  8. ^ Competed as "Monster" in the first season
  9. ^ Competed as "Night Angel" in the third season
  10. ^ Competed as "White Tiger" in the third season
  11. ^ For "Season Finale: The Final Mask is Lifted"
  12. ^ For "The Season Kick off Mask Off: Group A"
  13. ^ For season one
  14. ^ For seasons three and four

References

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  3. ^
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External links

Preceded by
The World's Best
2019
Super Bowl lead-out program
The Masked Singer
2020
Succeeded by
The Equalizer
2021
This page was last edited on 17 June 2021, at 02:46
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