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The Masked Singer is just stupid now

“Anything can and will happen,” Niecy Nash said at the end of The Masked Singer season five’s fifth episode, her final episode as guest host.

That is exactly my problem with the show this season, its fifth, which has gone so far off the rails that it’s just dumb. Not silly and fun dumb, but waste-of-time stupid.

Every episode of The Masked Singer ends with legalese saying “All voting was administered by an independent vote tabulation company and monitored by FOX Standards and Practices.” But why even bother with that when viewers’ votes are just going to be discarded?

That’s what happened at the end of a mostly normal episode.

Earlier, there was an actual brief emergency. “I’ve got to take a break,” the Crab said after performing. “I’ve got to take this off. Take it off,” he pled. The crew led him backstage to a curtained area where he was apparently able to take his mask off and cool down; he eventually returned to the stage.

The last contestant was a new entry, and the second wild card of the season. The Bulldog who wore gold track suit in addition to a gold, bejeweled bulldog mask, and sang “Candy Girl” by New Edition.

“I told you this was a game-changing season. Well, I’m about to change the game completely,” Niecy Nash said after that performance, as the contestants were gathered on the stage. “The votes will not count. Instead, I decide who gets unmasked.”

She announced that was the Bulldog, who pulled off his mask without waiting for the other contestants to clear. And it was Nick Cannon, who’s been absent this season because he had C0VID-19.

Nick Cannon and Niecy Nash after he was revealed to be the Bulldog on The Masked Singer season 5
Nick Cannon and Niecy Nash after he was revealed to be the Bulldog on The Masked Singer season 5 (Photo by Michael Becker/FOX)

Bringing Nick Cannon back this way, okay, sure. Maybe it’s clever. The judges didn’t really seem all that surprised, so who knows what they knew.

The problem for me is that Nick Cannon’s reveal came after a string of other bits, which suggests the show no longer cares about its own internal logic or credibility, from the introduction of the wildcard to the first unmasked contestant.

Two of the five unmasked contestants this season have already been staged stunts. And by breaking its own rules The Masked Singer invites us to not take it seriously.

You’re probably thinking: The Masked Singer is serious? It has credibility?! A show that cast Jenny McCarthy (please get your kids vaccinated) as one of the judges? A panel that throws out ridiculous names of A-list talent who’d never appear on a Fox reality show just to try to make their show seem more credible? A show that faked its studio audience for two full seasons?

Fair point. It’s always been silly and extremely low-stakes, especially since there’s no prize at the end.

The celebrities are clearly doing this for fun and/or attention. Maybe they try something new. Perhaps they do what they already do well but introduce themselves to new fans. Maybe they just show up to use one of TV’s most-popular shows to launder their reputations. (What the actual hell was Logan Paul doing on this show? After all this?!)

But the performances can be genuinely terrific, even moving. And getting to re-discover people who should need no introduction (T-Pain, Wayne Brady, Gladys Knight), or learning new things about celebrities and their talents (Ricky Lake, Kandi Burruss), has been an unexpectedly great part of The Masked Singer.

Was that not sustainable? Because it seems or the network and producers didn’t trust their format enough to allow it to continue.

The wheels started coming off last season, when the Gremlin sang—conveniently the last performance of the episode—and then took off his mask, eliminating himself. “Gremlin, what are you doing?” Nick Cannon asked. “It’s not that part of the show yet.” Then he called for help from the show’s on-stage extras, not the producers: “Men in Black, I need some help!” But Mickey Rourke revealed himself, and effectively quit the show.

From his last-of-the-night performance to the bad acting from Cannon and the judges, I didn’t believe that was a surprise at all. Did Mickey Rourke agree to do the show if he could only do one episode? Maybe he really surprised Nick Cannon and the judges and the producers. Maybe he agreed to be on one episode and they came up with this. Okay, fine.

Flash forward to this season’s premiere. The Masked Singer began its fifth season by revealing that the singer inside the snail costume was a fictional character: Kermit the Frog. (The puppeteer did not revel themselves.)

I love Kermit. I have my childhood plush Kermit on a shelf near my TV. We’ve been rewatching The Muppet Show and appreciating Jim Henson’s genius, especially his performance as Kermit. I think the new Kermit voice is an abomination, but I digress.

When that reveal happened, I was like, That is so stupid. The stupidity piled on as Entertainment Weekly (of course) interviewed Kermit in character (ugh), as if he was a sentient being. How about asking Kermit this: What the fuck happened to your voice?

I didn’t find that clever or charming or amusing because it wasn’t in any way genuine. This wasn’t an athlete trying something new or a long-forgotten singer returning to the stage. It was a phony bit.

And, you know, fine: do some bits! Bring back your host in a costume. But don’t commingle that with the actual competition. Don’t casually throw out the votes from the sketchy, mostly unseen panel of alleged super-fans who are voting at home without realizing that it will just undermine the core of the show. Don’t introduce wildcards without explaining how this will work.

The core of The Masked Singer is a real singing competition. In the same way that ABC’s Holey Moley is a whole lot of nonsense on top of a legitimate game of putt-putt, The Masked Singer is a silly guessing game with nutty costumes overtop an actual vocal competition.

The Masked Singer’s contest may be just one tiny piece of the show, but it’s an important piece, like the one Jenga block that’s holding up the entire tower. Knock it around too much, and the whole thing will collapse. All that will be left is a pile of stupidity.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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