By Kimberley Bond
You know the world’s turned upside down when trying to guess the identity of a singing battered sausage is uniting us in a society that’s become completely polarised.
It may be a brand new year, but we’re still very much in the grip of a hangover from the worst of 2020.
The UK has been plunged into a third lockdown, many of us have been separated from family and loved ones – and we have now watched in horror as rising tensions in the United States have seemingly led to a whole country imploding overnight.
With newspaper reports becoming increasingly grim as the days progress into 2021 (and we’re only one week in yet), I have found myself counting down the days (scratch that, the minutes) until Saturday night, where the bright studio lights and shiny floor formats can whisk me away into their world of froth and frivolousness, even for just a few hours.
BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing showed how vital entertainment television was in keeping our spirits up when things looked overwhelmingly bleak, with shimmies and sequins bringing a glimmer of joy to our otherwise empty schedules. Now, ITV is reclaiming its top spot for unmissable Saturday night telly, mostly thanks to the second season of The Masked Singer.
A roaring success when it first blasted onto our screens last year, the second series of the celebrity singing show is proving to be just as barmy as before. Even though we are braced for the bizarre (we saw a duck perform in a bra last series, after all), the team behind The Masked Singer really stepped it up a gear with costumes. From the ornate Harlequin, to the creepy-yet-cute Bush Baby, and the haunting Grandfather Clock, clues to each celebrity identity are woven into the costumes, and each add a new element to the performance.
The performances are a mixed bag between bordering on good and being outright bizarre, and the judges’ guesses are as ridiculous as ever – which is, of course, all part of the fun.
But you don’t watch The Masked Singer looking for plausibility or to even pledge allegiance to the best singer. That would be like eating candyfloss for its nutritional value. You watch The Masked Singer to play along. The Masked Singer is not so much an entertainment show, but more of a video game – each contestant presented in the style of a fighter from Tekken, with the guesses logged on screen like character options. The Masked Singer outright encourages you to get involved, to hastily send guesses into the Twitter void like a slightly manic game of Guess Who?. It’s small-scale event TV, with catch-up services side-lined as people choose to watch and play along live. You wouldn’t be inclined to catch up on the ITV Hub – playing along with people at home or on the internet is what makes it so much fun.
The Masked Singer is comparable only to shows such as Love Island and Strictly Come Dancing in its ability to whip up so much social media chatter over something so trivial, with people chipping in guesses, reminding us of clues, or generally just to rejoice in the show’s silliness. Unlike Love Island, the noise around the show is less malicious – it’s a series that is camp and frothy and doesn’t take itself too seriously with its relatively low stakes, so people who are watching aren’t looking to snipe and sneer. As we embrace it’s kooky brand of good-natured chaos, The Masked Singer is weirdly warm and reassuring as we all get involved on a Saturday night to tweet who’s behind the mask. In a world where some of us haven’t seen our nearest and dearest for nearly a year, it’s comforting to be part of an online community just briefly – even if it is uniting in trying to find out who Blob is.
For just a brief few hours, we can put the horrors of the real world to the back of our minds and just get swept up in a showbiz guessing game. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that a celebrity dressed up as a Sausage would end up being our Saturday night saviour, but as normal as we know it has been turned completely on its head, somehow it just feels right.