Singing competition reality shows have been popular since American Idol hit the airwaves. There are now a plethora of them, each with its own twist and following of faithful fans. Perhaps the most unique is Fox’s The Masked Singer, a huge hit in which celebrities (and not necessarily singers) perform popular songs while clad in garish costumes of every variety. These include elaborate masks which hide the singer’s identity.
A panel of judges watches each performance and is provided with clues as to who the singer is. They try to guess, as does the viewing audience. As on other reality singing competitions, fans cast votes and each week, the singer with the lowest total is eliminated and unmasked. Where did such an original concept come from?
The popular program features Nick Cannon as host, with Robin Thicke, Nicole Scherzinger, Ken Jeong and Jenny McCarthy serving as the panel of judges. Comedian Joel McHale is a frequent guest judge. The lineup of secret crooners has included actors, athletes and naturally singers and musicians. It’s an assortment of American celebrities but The Masked Singer was not originally an American show. It began in South Korea.
The First Version
In 2015, South Korean television debuted King of Mask Singer, the show that spawned the current U.S. hit. The show was very popular with Asian audiences and quickly spread to Thailand, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. American actor Ryan Reynolds, appeared on the original show while promoting Deadpool. His episode produced phenomenal ratings.
Bringing It to the U.S.
Craig Plestis, the producer of reality shows such as Deal or No Deal and The Apprentice, was having dining with his family in a Los Angeles Thai restaurant. The entire dining room was fascinated by the show on the restaurant’s television. Curious, Plestis googled the program and discovered it was the Thai version of The Masked Singer. Sure it would be a ratings hit in the U.S., Plestis secured the American television rights.
The veteran producer was right. The show was adapted into the American version of The Masked Singer and proved to be every bit as popular as it was in Asian countries. Now in its sixth season, The Masked Singer continues to score high in American television ratings.
There is a long history of popular television shows in other countries being adapted for American audiences. Many of them became some of the most popular shows of their era. One of the most recent is The Masked Singer. It shows no signs of slowing down.