After two seasons of pretending that it had a live studio audience, Fox’s The Masked Singer will again have live studio audiences when it returns for season six this fall. So will NBC’s America’s Got Talent season 16 when its live shows start in August.
This is a remarkable move for The Masked Singer, considering what it did last year for both its seasons, and considering that one of its judges, Jenny McCarthy, is “possibly the most highly visible anti-vaxxer in Hollywood,” as Rolling Stone noted; as an essay in The Week argued, “decades of destructive activism” is one reason why people are hesitant to get vaccinated.
The Masked Singer season 6’s filming starts next week, on July 21, and continues through Aug. 11 at Red Studios in Hollywood. That’s been the home of the show since season four—and it’s an iconic home. The studio used to be called Ren-Mar Studios, and was where The Golden Girls, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Empty Nest, three seasons of I Love Lucy, and other classic shows were filmed.
Only people who are fully vaccinated—two weeks after receiving the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine—can sit in the audience to hear the new group of masked celebrities perform. Vaccines have been approved for kids 12 and up, and The Masked Singer will welcome audience members ages 12 and above, though kids under 18 have to be with an adult in addition to being vaccinated.
Last fall, I thought it was very irresponsible of The Masked Singer to pretend that it had a live studio audience in the middle of a pandemic, though it certainly how they created a fake audience in real time was an impressive technological accomplishment. The producers and judges told me why they thought it was important to have the appearance of an audience.
Many shows that filmed this spring and summer do not have audiences: Big Brother has no audience, which is so wonderful; Holey Moley has a small cast of extras; and American Ninja Warrior, though it will have small audiences for its Las Vegas finale.
But the rules and guidelines Fox’s show has in place seem very responsible. For all audience members, the show will be requiring:
- vaccination, and proof of it, though that won’t be collected by the production
- a negative test result within 48 hours of filming
- masks to be worn in the studio when filming is not underway
I am curious if the show—host Nick Cannon, in particular—will acknowledge the audience’s vaccination status on the show. Having pretended the digital audience was actually there, will the show not acknowledge it at all? Or will Nick Cannon announce that he’s standing before a fully vaccinated audience? Will he ask the judges if they’re vaccinated? (I can dream.)
Seriously, it would be a helpful PSA, especially right now, when a dangerous new variant is on the rise, and many people are still unvaccinated for many different reasons. In Los Angeles County, where the show will be filming, 100 percent of people hospitalized are unvaccinated, which illustrates how effective the vaccines are.
America’s Got Talent season 16 has been similarly using “real and virtual shots, as well as shots from past seasons” for its audition episodes, according to a disclaimer that airs at the end of the episodes that were filmed in the spring.
But AGT 16 will have a live audience for its Tuesday and Wednesday shows from Aug. 10 to Sept. 15, and It will require vaccines and masks for all audience members. AGT tickets are not yet available, but Masked Singer tickets are.
How to be in the Masked Singer audience
The company coordinating the studio audience casting, On-Camera Audiences, is currently offering free tickets for the first filming date, July 21. It lists nine dates in total, and will likely be releasing tickets for those dates soon.
Masked Singer audience members will have to show proof of full vaccination, meaning the final shot was at least two weeks prior to the filming date.
They will also be tested for C0VID-19. On-Camera Audiences says:
As one of the most important parts of America’s favorite guessing game, if selected to be in the live studio audience, you will be given exclusive access to this season’s live performances. You will be able to cheer along and (most importantly) vote for your favorite new Masked Singers. Your votes will decide who stays under the mask and moves on in the competition. The masks receiving the least amount of votes will be up for elimination and risk being unmasked.
We know this is a lot to do, but it keeps us safe in the studio. It will be worth it. You will be the first to see the new Masked Singers and have the opportunity to vote for who stays and who is unmasked.
Those studio audiences will probably not, however, actually see who’s unmasked. During the first three seasons, the show cleared the studio for those reveals, but first had the audience fake their reactions, which is one of many ways that—even when there actually were human beings in the studio audience—the show combines acting and editing to fake its audience’s reactions to the performances.