It’s impossible not to fall in love with “The Masked Singer.”
The Fox reality competition series (Wednesdays, 9 EST/PST), an adaptation of a wildly popular Korean show, features celebrities wearing elaborate costumes who sing for an audience and judges clueless about who’s behind the mask. It’s like “The Voice” meets “Dancing with the Stars” meets “Where the Wild Things Are” meets a Halloween party you once attended where the karaoke got out of control. It’s a TV show that surprises you and gets your heart racing as often as “Game of Thrones” does, only with less blood and violence and more pop hits.
That may sound a tad hyperbolic, but “Singer” is a show that traffics in extremes, from the design of the costumes to the reactions of judges Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger to the stakes of a competition with no particular prize or even required competency. Every line from host Nick Cannon has an exclamation point. Every segment introducing the incognito talent is as cheesy and over the top as “High School Musical.” Every costume looks like a sports mascot if it was designed by the Joker.
Some elements of the show don’t quite work or make sense. The panel lives in a different world: McCarthy, inexplicably described as a “pop-culture guru,” is grating and brings nothing to the table, often guessing names that would never slum on broadcast TV. Thicke is far too analytical, trying to be a serious investigator in a decidedly unserious show. Jeong, who cracks jokes and makes little attempt to guess the singers’ identities, has the right vibe, except his hitting on the female contestants is in incredibly poor taste.
But it almost doesn’t matter. The panel is irrelevant, as Cannon is as host. The joy of this series lies entirely in the singers, and it really doesn’t much matter who they are. This could turn into a knockoff of “Dancing” where B- and C-listers rehab their image, but the joy of “Singer” is that it skips the pitfalls of a show like “Dancing.” No tear-jerking backstories, no real critiques from the judges, no attempt to get “America” involved with online voting and endless results shows. It’s a tightly paced hour in which the main joys are the good and bad voices, the costumes and the reactions of the judges and the in-studio audience.
A one-eyed monster can belt Queen, and everyone screams. A hip-hop Hippo can’t really belt anything, and the audience still screams. Everyone is trying, no one cares who wins, and it might just be the only reality TV show that doesn’t manufacture its fun.
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