If an alien was to come down and watch a typical weekend’s telly they would think us a peculiar planet. We dress our leaders up in sequins and make them dance like performing monkeys; we take old singers and put them in spinning chairs like a day trip from the old people’s home to visit the waltzers, and now we dress celebrities in outrageous Mardi Gras costumes and make them perform like ducks, chameleons and bees. We live in strange times.
Where on earth do you start trying to unpick The Masked Singer? Well let’s start with the set. It resembles two giant masks from Phantom of the Opera with their mouths open, effectively spewing the singers onto the stage. And when you see how the singers are dressed, you can understand why they feel the need to projectile vomit them out.
The basic concept of The Masked Singer is simple; six singers perform whilst wearing costumes resembling those from It’s a Knockout from the 1970s. A panel of four then have to decide who they think the singer is. The panel in question are Davina McCall, Jonathan Ross, Rita Ora and some bloke called Ken. He was on the American version and so presumably they had to use him as part of the license agreement.
The singers come out in pairs and the audience vote who they want to be in the bottom three. The panel then decide which singer they want to eliminate and it this point they take off their mask. First up last night was Queen Bee and Duck. Queen Bee will haunt my nightmares until the day I die. If you have a phobia for Victorian dolls then Queen Bee is not for you.
Imagine if Hamble from Playschool came to life as a grown woman, donned a bee costume and began terrorising you. That is what Queen Bee is like. In contrast, duck is a life-size rubber duck like you would play with in the bath, but in this case dressed in a Jean-Paul Gautier bustier pretending to be Madonna. (I did say we live in a strange world.)
Before each singer comes on there is a short VT where they give clues to who they are. Their voices have been disguised and the VT is basically them (or more likely body doubles) prancing around some location giving out clues. It all felt a bit Through the Keyhole to me.
After that, they come on and perform and that’s where things start to go wrong. The thing about talent shows or singing competitions is that you judge the whole performance; how the artist sings, how they act, how they connect with the audience. It is very hard to portray any sort of emotions when you’re dressed like a rubber duck.
The producers employed dancers who looked as though they had come straight out of Eurovision. (I did wonder what those dancers did for the other 362 days of the year) which led to the spectacle of seeing grown men dancing with duck beaks attached to their faces. Again an image that will haunt me ’till my dying day.
Once performed, the panel try to guess who is in the costume. This again had overtones of Through the Keyhole. Sometimes a panellist would mention a name, which the audience decided they agreed with, and then start clapping. But the audience has no idea either who is in the costume, so it is effectively the blind leading the blind.
What really struck me was the level of celebrity that the panel were getting at. When Idris Elba and Adam Lambert were mentioned you find yourself thinking “hold on, this is a Saturday night ITV show. Can they really get those sort of names to dress up as a duck?”
One thing that some of the costumes do give away is the gender of the wearer. The Butterfly was obviously a lady and The Chameleon was obviously a man. Let’s just say you had to look at the location of the curves to work it out. (The Chameleon is definitely Chris Eubank by the way.)
We know that some of the performers are professional by the way they sang. The unicorn is definitely John Barrowman. Others, by the sounds of their singings, are not professional singers although Chris Eubank…I mean The Chameleon, did a fairly respectable version of Radiohead’s Creep.
At the end of episode one it was revealed that The Butterfly was actually Bianca off EastEnders. The thing is that Patsy Palmer hasn’t been on TV for a while and you could see a moment when everyone looked at her and thought “Who is that?” then they realised “oh it’s Bianca!”. At this point Ken looked on completely bemused. Perhaps in episode two they may lower the calibre level of celeb that they guess. I am now thinking that The Hedgehog is possibly Tyrone from Coronation Street.
The series is on both Saturdays and Sundays so we won’t have to wait long to find out who these performers are and whilst it is the most ridiculous format I have ever seen in my life I will be watching again just to find out if The Chameleon really is Chris Eubank. (It is. I would wager money on it.)
The Masked Singer is on ITV and available on the ITV Hub.