The whole thing seems way too silly to work: Stars disguised in elaborate but ridiculous getups (Llama! Taco! Astronaut!) belt out songs while a quartet of wise-cracking panelists — actor Ken Jeong, TV personality Jenny McCarthy and singers Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke — plus an in-studio audience cast ballots for their favorite. “It’s unlike anything else on TV,” brags exec producer Craig Plestis.
Which is why the show has been such a monster success: Season 3’s post–Super Bowl premiere pulled in nearly 24 million viewers, and this summer, TV Guide Magazine readers named it their No. 1 reality competition in our Fan Favorites polls. While much of the fun comes from each episode’s climax — the lowest-rated singer is unmasked, revealing stars as varied as NFL player Rob Gronkowski and Patti LaBelle — Scherzinger says the appeal goes deeper: “Not only is The Masked Singer a fun family show, but it’s a show about real stories and real people.”
Indeed, aside from the who-could-that-be? aspect, contestants (their voices electronically disguised) can become emotional during interviews with host Nick Cannon. Scherzinger says those unguarded moments have fans, herself included, tearing up: “I’m such a softie!”
TV Guide Magazine unmasks how the hit will keep viewers hooked in Season 4.
Crazy New Characters
The Masked Singer is all about the eye-popping wardrobe, and each cycle designer Marina Toybina ups the ante. But this fall she outdoes herself with the series’ first-ever costume to fit two contestants: the double-headed Snow Owls. “It blew my mind!” Jeong raves. And Plestis is eager for the speculation it will spark: “Are they a couple? Brother and sister? Or two people we found on the street?” he says with a laugh.
Other characters you’ll goggle at (there will be at least 14 total): Sun, Popcorn, Crocodile, Jellyfish, Dragon — even a Broccoli floret! “These are better costumes than ever before,” says Plestis.
Viewers get a voice
The one complaint Plestis hears from fans: “Why can’t I vote?” Now, they can! Due to the pandemic, the in-studio audience is tiny, so producers have put out a call (visit on-camera-audiences.com/shows/The_Masked_Singer) for thousands of at-home “superfans.” Those who sign up get a secure video link to watch performances and pick their favorites.
Almost as fun as the performances? The clever clue packages, taped segments that hint at the singers’ identities. (In Season 3, for Night Angel, aka The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burruss, a map of Colombia was shown, a nod to her record deal with Columbia Records.)
Those will now have cartoon elements to cut down on folks taping together. Plus, “it’s a way to be more bizarre, which is what our show is,” Plestis explains.
The Panelists Compete!
The last singer standing snags the Golden Mask trophy. Now, Scherzinger, McCarthy, Jeong, and Thicke are aiming for their own prize: the Golden Ear. After seeing each contestant’s initial clue package and performance, the panelists jot down who they think is in disguise. The notes go in a vault and are revealed at each elimination. Whoever guesses the most correctly wins. “Ken Jeong,” says Plestis, “really wants to win it.” Let the games begin!
The Masked Singer, Season 4 Premiere, Wednesday, September 23, 8/7c, Fox
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