The Masked Singer (American TV series)

The Masked Singer is an American reality singing competition television series, part of the Masked Singer franchise, featuring celebrities in head-to-toe costumes and face masks which conceal their identities from other contestants, panelists, and an audience. The series premiered on Fox on January 2, 2019, and is hosted by Nick Cannon.

The Masked Singer
Masked Singer USA Logo.png
GenreReality competition
Game show
Based onKing of Mask Singer
by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation
Developed byCraig Plestis[1]
Directed by
  • Alex Rudzinski[1]
  • Brad Duns
Presented byNick Cannon
Starring
Opening theme"Who Are You" by The Who
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes34 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Craig Plestis (s. 1–)
  • Izzie Pick Ibarra (s. 1–)
  • Rosie Seitchik (s. 2–)
  • Nick Cannon (s. 3–)
[1][2][3]
Production location(s)Television City
Running time42–85 minutes[4]
Production company(s)
[5]
DistributorFox Corporation
Release
Original networkFox
Original releaseJanuary 2, 2019 (2019-01-02) –
present
Chronology
Related showsMasked Singer franchise
External links
Website

The series is currently in its third season which premiered after Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020.

HistoryEdit

The Masked Singer is based on the South Korean show King of Mask Singer. Executive producer Craig Plestis explained that he first discovered the format during a visit to a Thai restaurant. While an episode of the Thai version of the show was playing on a television, he observed that the other patrons "were all just staring at this TV watching this crazy kangaroo in like a pleather outfit singing, and we didn't even finish dinner." Plestis and his daughter began to research the series, and he later secured the rights to produce an American adaptation, which he sold to Fox.

Due to Plestis' relationship with the studio, the first season of The Masked Singer was produced by Endemol Shine North America, then-owned partly by Fox's parent 21st Century Fox (the stake is now owned by Disney). For the second season, production transitioned to a new in-house studio under the Fox network, Fox Alternative Entertainment.[6][7]

FormatEdit

A group of celebrities compete on the show anonymously in costumes over a series of episodes. The specific format of the competition varies by season and episode, depending on how many celebrities remain, but generally, each episode features four to six celebrities performing a cover of a famous song, and the panelists and audience vote for their favorite. The celebrity with the fewest votes in that episode is eliminated from the competition and must take off their mask and reveal their identity.[8]

In addition to the singing competition, hints to each masked singer's identity are offered during the show, referred to as the "clue package" by the panelists. Such clues may feature cryptic allusions to what the celebrity is known for, or may be more direct references to public but somewhat obscure knowledge of the celebrity. Pre-taped interviews are given as hints and feature celebrities' electronically masked voices. The panelists are given time to speculate the identity of the singer after the performance, including the opportunity to ask questions or gain additional clues offered by the host.[8]

Panelists and hostEdit

Following the announcement of the series, it was confirmed by Fox that the judging panel would consist of singer-songwriter Robin Thicke, television personality Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, actor and comedian Ken Jeong, and recording artist Nicole Scherzinger. It was also confirmed that Nick Cannon would host the show.[9]

Occasionally, there are guest panelists that appear as the fifth panelist for a few episodes; in season 1, they were comedian Joel McHale (episodes 3–4), actor J. B. Smoove (episode 7), and actor and comedian Kenan Thompson (episodes 8 and 10). In season 2, they were Anthony Anderson (episode 6), Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (Robert Smigel; episode 7), McHale (episodes 8-9), and season 1 winner T-Pain (episode 10). In season 3, the guest panelists included Jamie Foxx (episode 1), Jason Biggs (episode 2), Leah Remini (episode 3), Gabriel Iglesias (episode 5), T-Pain (episode 6), McHale (episode 8), Will Arnett (episode 9), with Sharon Osbourne set to appear in the eleventh episode[10] and Yvette Nicole Brown set to appear in the twelfth episode.[11]

On March 28, 2019, Sharon Osbourne revealed on The Talk that she was originally supposed to be signed on as a panelist for the series; those plans fell through after being contractually obligated to appear on The X Factor.[12]

ProductionEdit

Before each of the competitors is unmasked, the show's production staff undertakes significant security measures to prevent the participants' identities from leaking. Executive producer Izzie Pick Ibarra has stated that only 25 people knew the actual identities of the contestants in advance of the first season.[13]

Entering into the third season, the show's production had to work out better voice modulation routines as they had found fans of the show were able to remove the modulation and identify the speaking from previous seasons. Further, passionate fans of the show had been able to work out identities of the singers from early clue packages, so more difficult clue packages were created for the celebrities in the third season.[14]

CostumesEdit

 
As with every costume, the Lion from the first season began as a sketch by Toybina (seen above). Its mask was coated in pure gold and was heavily inspired by runway fashion.

Craig Plestis, the man who developed the show for American audiences, described the series' costumes as "extremely critical" to the show, adding "so much money" is invested in them.[15] They are designed by Emmy Award-winner Marina Toybina. The concepts for the costumes are her own and are inspired by a variety of sources. She begins by sketching each costume idea with a pencil and then gives the drawings to one of her friends who creates a digital version. After the costume concepts are shared with the show's producers and Fox executives who decide which designs will be featured during a season, Toybina buys all of the necessary fabrics herself and collaborates with a team of 20 to 30 people to custom-make them.[16] Each costume takes about two months to create,[15] including the masks which are built in about one week. Beginning as a wire mesh; foam is gradually added around the mask, creating an easy-to-wear helmet shape for the performer.[17][18] As "the draping and the handwork [for the costumes are] all done the old school way," she cites fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, and Hussein Chalayan as inspirations.[19][20][21] Toybina says the majority of costumes turn out identical to her sketches.[21]

Due to time constraints, a maximum of two fittings are conducted with each celebrity at a "very, very private hidden-away" location[20] (either the costume shop or Toybina's own studio)[21] in which the costumes are tested with a vocal coach to make sure the celebrities can sing and hear clearly.[22][23] As there are no backup costumes, each is sanitized and repaired (if needed) between episodes.[19][22]

Season 1Edit

Toybina described the Lion and Monster costumes as her favorites from the first season. The Lion—which took the longest to make—was inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia and Joan of Arc. It was unlike the other eleven costumes as the gemstone-laden mask was sculpted out of clay and coated in gold to give it an "armor-like aesthetic." The Monster, meanwhile, was designed around a 360° foam cylinder with built-in vents made of mesh to provide oxygen to the performer. However, during filming, the large eye the celebrity saw out of frequently fogged up due to a lack of air; tiny fans were then installed inside the costume to provide circulation.[13][17][24] Fans were also placed inside the full-body Pineapple costume, which was constructed to resemble a Hawaiian surfer on the beach in the summer.[16]

Other costumes, such as the Rabbit and Raven, were inspired by Hollywood movies.[21] The former was the result of combining the character Frank from the film Donnie Darko (2001) with Edward Scissorhands (1990) to create a darker, unexpected costume, while the latter was inspired by The Crow (1994).[16] Deer was heavily influenced by steampunk elements and made to resemble "a war soldier trapped in a wood"[21] and Peacock was made to look like an Elvis Presley "showstopper costume" inspired by the glitz of Las Vegas.[16] The small dogs in Beverly Hills inspired Toybina to make the pink Poodle have a Real Housewives diva-like presence with accompanying sunglasses,[21][25] while her love of hip-hop music inspired her to add LL Cool J-style chains to the Hippo.[20] Unicorn, which was imagined as an ethereal white snow queen,[19] had its horn break off during the filming of an episode. Toybina says she had to "reach for the wire and glue" to fix it backstage.[15]

For their work on the tenth and final episode of the season, Toybina and costume supervisor Grainne O'Sullivan received a Creative Arts Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming.[26]

Season 2Edit

For the second season, which featured 16 new costumes, Toybina says her goals were to increase the production quality, emphasize their backstories and increase their mobility.[23][27][28] Tree was experimental; Toybina and her team challenged themselves to question "what fabric can do" by creating something new and different. Meanwhile, Fox was steampunk-inspired and the Penguin's mask was chromed in silver. Ice Cream was also innovative; the costume was formed during a complicated process of sculpting the head "out of foam and [waxing it] onto the shoulder." As opposed to stereotypical black and red accents, Toybina wanted to create a sleek costume for Black Widow by experimenting with texture and movement for its design. Similarly, rather than designing the expected appearance of a Leopard, Toybina relegated animal print to the costume's mask only and instead created a vintage look with a Victorian dress and large collar. Toybina says she wanted to push the boundaries of costume design by creating a "theatrical environment" made of petals surrounding the face mask of the Flower. In order to confuse viewers, the celebrity inside the Flamingo saw out of a peephole in the neck instead of the head to hide their true height.[23]

Movie and cultural influences were also present in the season; the hippie-like Eagle embodied Americana and was influenced by rock musicians Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen, while Skeleton was heavily inspired by the character Jack Skellington of Tim Burton's 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas. The Panda was imagined as a playful costume that would appeal to younger viewers of the show as the necklace was inspired by gumball machines and the clothing Harajuku-like. The Egg costume, which was requested by a contestant, was described as "somewhere between the runway and Lady Gaga." It incorporated egg features in four different ways: the costume's mask was a boiled egg, the hat was a fried egg, the intricacy of the breastplate (which was hand-beaded) represented a Fabergé egg, and the overcoat resembled a cracked eggshell. Toybina inserted the beads and stones into the Butterfly costume by hand, which she says transforms the costume's darkness and sex appeal into beauty onstage.[23][27]

Increasing the mobility of the celebrities inside the costumes was also a focus of the season's designs, Toybina said.[28] For safety purposes, she had to reduce the extravagance of Ladybug's face mask to make it tight to the face and instead accentuated the volume of the body of the costume. Alternatively, the mask is the main feature of the street-inspired Rottweiler costume to allow the celebrity to move freely onstage. One of the last costumes that was created for the season was Thingamajig, which Toybina says resembles a grandfather and an elf with its long bead and ears. Contrary to popular belief, Toybina insists the costume was not made to resemble asparagus, rather, it was born out of pure creativity.[23][27]

Toybina won a Costume Designers Guild Award in the Excellence in Variety, Reality-Competition, Live Television category in recognition of her work on the season two finale.[29]

Season 3Edit

The third season featured eighteen new costumes. In addition to creating more mobility within the costumes, Toybina described the season's style focus as "more fashion-forward and modern" compared to the superhero and experimental feel of the first and second seasons. A fan favorite costume from the first season, Monster, was reimagined as a female (Miss Monster) to create a "fun and outgoing" costume that kids would enjoy, while White Tiger was designed to resemble an Egyptian warrior "god of all gods."[30]

Series overviewEdit

Season Number of Duration Finalists
Celebrities Weeks Winner Runner-up Third place
1 12 9 January 2 – February 27, 2019 T-Pain
as "Monster"
Donny Osmond
as "Peacock"
Gladys Knight
as "Bee"
2 16 10 September 25 – December 18, 2019 Wayne Brady
as "Fox"
Chris Daughtry
as "Rottweiler"
Adrienne Bailon
as "Flamingo"
3 18 14[31] February 2, 2020 – present TBA

ReceptionEdit

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Year Category Nominee(s) Episode(s) Result
MTV Movie & TV Award[32] 2019 Best Host Nick Cannon Season 1 Nominated
Teen Choice Award[33] 2019 Choice Reality TV Show The Masked Singer Season 1 Nominated
Creative Arts Emmy Award[26] 2019 Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming Marina Toybina, Grainne O'Sullivan "Season Finale: The Final Mask is Lifted" Nominated
People's Choice Award[34] 2019 The Competition Show of 2019 The Masked Singer Season 1 Nominated
The Competition Contestant of 2019 T-Pain Season 1 Nominated
Producers Guild of America Award[35] 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 Season 1 Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Award[29] 2020 Excellence in Variety, Reality-Competition, Live Television Marina Toybina "Season Finale: And The Winner Takes It All and Takes It Off" Won
Kids' Choice Awards[36] TBA Favorite Reality Show The Masked Singer Not Given Pending
Favorite TV Host Nick Cannon Not Given Pending

Critical responseEdit

The premiere episode received mixed reviews. Emily Yahr of The Washington Post described the premiere episode as "one of the craziest reality shows of our time";[37] Vulture felt that the series was more entertaining, yet "weirder, sillier, and stupider" than other U.S. music competition programs, and described the format as having the "vibe" of "what if [Philadelphia Flyers mascot] Gritty walked out on a soundstage made to look like an arena concert, belted out Sam Smith's 'Stay with Me', was described as 'a professional' by Jenny McCarthy, took off his head to reveal he was Joey Fatone, and the entire experience felt three clicks away from an episode of Black Mirror?"[38]

Kelly Lawler of USA Today named the judging panel as the worst in reality television history.[39] The judges were deemed as "weak",[38] "off balance",[39] "ineffective",[39] and "[approaching] their jobs with all the insight and acumen of an America's Next Top Model contestant trying to decipher the Tyra Mail."[38] In addition, the performances on the show were considered "underwhelming" (using Ryan Reynolds' surprise appearance on the Korean version singing "Tomorrow" in a "low-rent" unicorn mask as a benchmark) due to the contestants not always being singers; however, the format was described as brilliant and deemed to have depth for being "a pretty fascinating examination of celebrity culture, mass appeal, performance, image, and fame."[38][39][38]

RatingsEdit

The Masked Singer premiered in January 2019 as the highest rated unscripted television series debut since The X Factor in 2011. Following three days of DVR viewing, the first episode's 18–49 rating grew by 30 percent—the highest increase ever for a premiere in the show's genre.[40] Although initially dropping, ratings grew towards the end of the season, and the finale became the most watched episode.[41] The show concluded the 2018–19 television season as the highest rated new series, averaging a 2.6 18–49 rating throughout all 10 episodes.[42] The second season premiered 17 percent lower than the previous, though it was mostly in line with the first season's average.[43] The finale's ratings also dropped compared to the first season, although it was up 20% in viewers from the previous week.[44] The third season, which premiered as the Super Bowl LIV lead-out program, was viewed by over 23.7 million people and received an 8.1 18–49 rating. While the episode was watched by more than the previous lead-out, The World's Best (22.2 million), and Fox's most-recent lead-out, 2017's 24: Legacy (17.6 million), it was far lower than the viewership of This Is Us (27 million) in 2018.[45]

Season Timeslot

(ET, UTC–5)

Episodes First aired Last aired TV season Averages
Date Viewers
(millions)
Date Viewers
(millions)
Viewership
ranking
Viewers
(millions)
18–49
ranking
18–49
rating
1 Wednesday 9:00 p.m. 10 January 2, 2019 9.37[46] February 27, 2019 11.48[47] 2018–19 16 8.17[42] 5 2.6[42]
2 Wednesday 8:00 p.m. 13 September 25, 2019 8.03[48] December 18, 2019 8.37[49] 2019–20 TBA TBA TBA TBA
3 TBA February 2, 2020 23.78[50] May 27, 2020[51] TBA

Spin-offsEdit

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 Ellen DeGeneres as executive producer. DeGeneres had previously conducted The Masked Dancer as a recurring segment of her syndicated talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as a self-admitted parody of The Masked Singer. DeGeneres stated that the show was "gonna be just as fun and suspenseful", but "with a lot more krumping."[52][53]

National TourEdit

On February 12, 2020, it was announced that the show would be getting a national live tour, slated to stop in over 45 cities, beginning with Detroit, Michigan, on May 28 at the Fox Theatre. The tour will feature two celebrity hosts, as well as a local mystery celebrity who is unmasked at the end of each show.[54][55]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit


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