Commentary

Showmanship Saves 'Masked Singer' From Absurdity

Fox is starting the new year by demonstrating a keen distrust in the ability of TV critics to keep a secret.

The network's lack of faith in the trustworthiness of critics was revealed to the TV Blog on Monday while previewing the premiere episode of Fox's new singing-competition show called “The Masked Singer,” premiering Wednesday night (January 2).

I made it all the way to the end of the show and was then denied a peek at the identity of the masked singer who was eliminated from the competition at the conclusion of the episode.

The Fox publicity department probably trusts at least some of us critics and columnists. But just in case some critic on its vast media list was tempted to go rogue and spoil this show's reveal, the person's head and face were kept under a blurred field in the preview version of the show that the network provided to critics.

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This is far from the worst thing that has ever happened to the TV Blog, but it also demonstrates the extent to which a viewer, even a grizzled TV columnist who thinks he has seen everything, can become invested in this show.

It is a testament to old-fashioned showmanship that “The Masked Singer” puts its concept across, although the promos Fox has been airing incessantly in advance of its premiere make this show seem as if we have achieved a new low in reality-TV absurdity and self-parody.

The promos gave an impression of a show that is so ridiculous that its goal would seem to be impossible to reach.

That goal is to make viewers at home swell with curiosity about the identity of a celebrity who just sang for them in an outlandish costume such as the one-eyed “monster” specimen seen in the above photo with host Nick Cannon.

While this secret would appear to have no relevance to any of our lives (and believe me, it does not), I found myself wondering who these people were all the same, and against my better judgement.

In all, there are six masked celebrities in the premiere episode, paired off in twos -- a peacock vs. a hippo, the aforementioned monster vs. a unicorn, and a deer vs. a lion.

These competitive interludes, which include performances and the reactions of a four-member celebrity panel, are enough to fill and justify this show's one-hour length.

The panelists are on hand to try to guess the masked singers’ identities in what amounts to a 21st-century version of the old game show “What's My Line” (sort of). But these celebrity judges are as clueless as the rest of us.

For the record, they are singer Robin Thicke, pseudo-celeb Jenny McCarthy, comic actor Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger, a singer/dancer who once won “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC and has appeared as a judge on other reality-competition shows.

“The Masked Singer” succeeds on the power of its exuberance, which in this case serves as a synonym for showmanship. 

Everybody on this show seems as if they have been coached to ratchet up their enthusiasm to 11 on a scale of 1-10. Nick Cannon is excited, the panelists are overjoyed and the studio audience is screaming, dancing and singing.

What can I say? Against all odds, the darn thing works.

The Masked Singer” premieres Wednesday night (January 2) at 9 Eastern on Fox.

1 comment about "Showmanship Saves 'Masked Singer' From Absurdity".
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  1. Kenny Kurtz from creative license, January 9, 2019 at 1:17 p.m.

    To each his own judgment, I guess. Success on the power of exuberance? It works?

    I didn't make it through the first episode, so ridiculous did all the inanity appear to me (especially from the panel of judges), although my wife did. When she came into bed later that evening, where I was reading, she said "do you want to know who was unmasked?"

    I said no, gave her a kiss, turned out my reading light, and went to sleep.

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