In the opening minutes of season two of Fox’s The Masked Singer, host Nick Cannon announces, “Time to get weird,” from behind a bejeweled mask and, well, this show at least deserves points for self-awareness. The hit reality singing competition is back after a successful first season. More recently, the network indulged in a bit of confusing, shameless self-promotion at the Emmys when someone in an egg costume joined Samantha Bee and that guy from Workaholics onstage for a lackluster musical performance.
The Egg is back in The Masked Singer season premiere, wearing a snazzy white suit and Humpty Dumpty mask to perform his rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” Egg eventually faces off against a wisecracking skeleton in a top hat who offers a growly interpretation of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.” Esteemed reality TV judge Nicole Scherzinger describes the performance as “soulful.” Robin Thicke, of “Blurred Lines” fame, later tells Egg, with complete sincerity, “I applaud your courage.” There’s also a ladybug (who’s most definitely Kelly Osbourne wearing a frightening insect mask), a vintage metallic Christmas tree, and a dog with a six pack.
The Masked Singer, a South Korean import, is probably one of the most bizarre reality TV shows on air right now (though it admittedly has some steep competition for that title). Essentially, a group of C-list celebrities competes anonymously in elaborate costumes that contain clues about their true identities.
Contestants are grouped into pairs and must each perform a live cover of a song. The audience and judges vote on the winners of each face-off, who are safe until the next week, and the losers compete against each other in a “smackdown.” The loser of the smackdown must reveal his or her “famous face.” Along the way, judges and audience members try to crack clues about the characters’ identities. It’s unexpectedly delightful to learn that an NFL player or Olympic athlete has a secret karaoke talent, and for pop culture junkies, the celeb trivia is irresistible.
Last season, rapper T-Pain won after delivering a moving rendition of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” disguised as a furry turquoise monster. Other contestants included Gladys Knight (Bee), Tori Spelling (Unicorn), and Rumer Willis (Lion).” This year, the costumes are somehow even zanier, with celebrities posing as an egg, an ice cream cone, a jacked rottweiler, a penguin, and something called a “thingamajig,” to name a few.
That the judges are all completely out of touch with pop culture simply adds to the tedious hilarity. Jenny McCarthy, fresh off of her cringeworthy stint as Fox’s Emmys red carpet correspondent, is behind the judges’ table, ready to name drop Donny Wahlberg at any given moment. Like clockwork, an hour into the episode, she notes that Rottweiler sounds like someone who could have toured with her husband, “another boybander.” There’s also Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, who, as far as I can tell, is the only one qualified to evaluate people’s singing. (She is, on the other hand, abysmal at guessing their identities.) Robin Thicke and Ken Jeong round out the crew.
Together, they’re surprisingly entertaining. A highlight of the episode was when they speculated that Ice Cream was a famous YouTuber, panicked about how none of them know the names of any YouTube influencers, then struggled to come up with the word “subscriber” for at least two minutes. “Followers?” Nicole suggested, futilely. Ken Jeong countered with a hesitant, “streamers?”
The moment was only made better when Nicole Scherzinger confidently said that she thinks the man who sang “Old Town Road” wearing a giant, bulbous ice cream scoop helmet is Evan Spiegel—billionaire, creator of Snapchat, and husband of Victoria’s Secret angel Miranda Kerr. Prior to this insane suggestion, McCarthy comfortably had the worst guess of the evening when she hypothesized that Ladybug, who sang, “Holding Out For A Hero,” is Willow Smith. After all, nothing screams “Footloose fan” quite like uber hip 18-year-old Willow Smith.
In the end, it was revealed that Egg was Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and Ice Cream was Ninja, a person I’ve never heard of before who apparently is famous because people watch him play Fortnite on YouTube. The faces of several kids in the audience lit up in recognition.
The judges were too busy kicking themselves for guessing that he was either DeadMau5 or Marshmello, even though—as I screamed at my TV several times— neither of those people has a “famous face” to reveal because no one knows what their faces look like. Because they professionally wear large, skull-concealing masks not unlike the ice cream head. DeadMau5 would have had to be wearing the ice cream head OVER his massive mouse head for that to make sense.
But, as I am beginning to learn, this is The Masked Singer, and nothing about it makes sense.