Welcome to Britain 2020, where The Masked Singer has become an immediate phenomenon.
Love it or hate it, everyone is talking about the show that epitomises the crazy and chaotic age we live in. The premise is silly and simple: mystery celebrities dress up in elaborate costumes – including a tree, a unicorn, a monster and a really quite foxy fox – sing a song and a panel of judges, along with the rest of us, tries to guess who they are, with one celebrity being ritually unmasked each week. It’s completely bonkers but defying all logic, The Masked Singer became ITV’s biggest new programme in a decade.
Wrangling the magnificent creations as they belt out tunes is the programme’s presenter Joel Dommett. In this week’s Big Issue he explains why The Masked Singer is fast becoming a national obsession.
“We all need something upbeat,” he says. “There are so many depressing things happening in the news; politically, environmentally, financially. We don’t want to see people being horrible to each other on television any more. We want to see celebrities in silly costumes having a really fun time then trying to guess with their friends who they are. That’s what people want.
“The Masked Singer is so odd and so bizarre, it’s not going to immediately be everyone’s cup of tea. But that’s what’s endearing about it. It’s not cynical in any way, it’s just pure unadulterated silly fun, very tongue-in-cheek, almost a parody of your standard judging panel show.”
Dommett says that it was a “no brainer” to accept the presenting gig, citing the format’s success in other countries including the USA, Australia, Germany and South Korea where it all began in 2015 (with contestants including Ryan Reynolds).
Almost six million viewers tuned in to the first episodes of the series to see Bianca from EastEnders and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson unmasked as a Butterfly and Sphinx. It was ITV’s biggest launch in almost a decade. But not everyone was instantly sold on the programme.
Dommett explains: “Over the first weekend I had people messaging me on Twitter saying, ‘This is terrible television, what is this rubbish?’ And then 40 minutes Iater they were like, ‘I’m addicted, why can’t I can’t stop watching it?!’ And that’s going to be the entire country by the end of the series. You have to wait eight weeks until you find out who at least three of these characters are, so imagine the fever of the country by then.”
If Masked Singer has already caught you, make sure to pick up this week’s Big Issue for more from Joel Dommett. The magazine is available now from vendors and The Big Issue Shop. Joel Dommett – Unapologetic (If That’s OK?) tours the country from February. Click here for more details and tickets