OK, so, you got me. I recently wrote an article about the show The Masked Singer, in which I expressed a view that might best be summed up as, “What the hell is all this about?” Well, they showed me.
Not that I’ve changed that view, mind you. Before I’d seen the show, bewilderment seemed the most apt response to the premise, and now that I have seen it, bewilderment seems if anything even more apt. How anyone can watch unicorns and robots and huge pirate prawns lumbering about a stage with cover versions of popular songs ranging from average to insipid, followed by a helium-voiced monologue of cryptic clues about their identity, and then a celebrity panel yelling out names of random entertainers…well, I’ve just described the show and when you see it written down like that you’re really struck by how unbelievable its very existence is.
But the fact is, it’s a hit. The Masked Singer is fetching over a million viewers per episode, which in this day and age is good going. As utterly batshit and incomprehensible as it is, people love it.
They love it despite the grotesque, Saturday morning cartoon-meets-fetish-party-meets-David-Lynch-film aesthetic of the costumes. They love it despite the frantic, sweaty, please-god-pretend-this-is-a-proper-show vibe of the hosting. They love it despite the blatantly insincere guesses from the judges, who never in a million years actually believe the hapless unemployed has-been inside the suit could be Keith Urban or Waleed Aly, but have to say so because if they only never name people everyone’s forgotten about, it’ll look as sad as it is.
They even love it despite the fact that one judge, Lindsay Lohan, has zero knowledge of any Australian personalities and can only make insane suggestions that somehow an American A-Lister has decided to appear on the Australian version of a show that is strictly D-List even in the States. No, Lindsay, it ain’t going to be Usher. It ain’t going to be Kelly Osbourne. It ain’t going to be Ed Freaking Sheeran. Those people have, to put it mildly, better things to do. But then, what else can Lindsay say? “I think it might be the guy I bought coffee from this morning – he’s the only Australian I’ve met so far.”
And of course, they love it despite the fact that the singing is at best bad, and at worst BAD. But therein lies the key to this objectively idiotic show’s appeal. Fact is, the singing on The Masked Singer is filler. The show would be every bit as popular if nobody ever sang a note. Because the singing is not the point: the point is the mystery. The point is: here is someone in a costume, here are some oblique clues, can you guess who it is?
And that’s all the show is. A guessing game. And an ingeniously manufactured one, because it manages to pass itself off as a singing show. But if you can show me one person who claims to give a crap about how well anyone on the show sings, I can show you a dirty stinking liar.
The thing is, once I grasped this, I understood The Masked Singer. Of course people are going to like trying to decipher clues and figure out who’s behind the mask. Of course people are going to like trawling through their mental library of minor celebrities and Australian pop-culture history to dredge up the answer. Of course people are going to like seeing a monster pull its head off and cry, “Oh yeah, I remember them!”
And now I get that…I kind of like it too. I want to watch. I want to guess. I want to know who the masked singers are. God have mercy on my soul, I’m into it.
And the lion is definitely Casey Donovan.