Why ‘The Masked Singer’ is Doing Better Than Any Other Talent Show on TV

Julia Delbel
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Reality TV that showcases talent has been around in some form or another since television was first introduced over half a century ago, but about 20 years ago Talent Shows really became a major player in the market. The genre has changed a lot since then, but in a weird way it has simultaneously become a bit stagnant. One show that has managed to strike that ever-coveted balance between the familiar and the fresh lately is The Masked Singer.

The Magic of The Masked Singer

Reality TV Getting Stale?

The Masked Singer Season 2 Episode 8 Preview

Over the past two decades that reality TV has been a dominant genre, a lot of shows have come and gone. But a surprising number have actually managed to stick around for the long haul. Shows like Survivor, Dancing With the Stars, and American Idol (even though that last one was off the air for a year before the network switch) have become staples of television like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show.

But since these shows have been around for so long, they need to stay fresh in order to justify their continued presence in the television landscape. They often try to do this with gimmicks, twists, celebrity appearances, you name it. But these things often end up doing more harm than good, and can actually take away from the reason why the shows were so appealing in the first place.

The Monster’s identity is revealed on The Masked Singer Season 1 finale

We’re at a weird place with this genre because the long-running shows are having trouble keeping things exciting without straying from their roots, while the majority of the new shows can’t seem to find enough of an audience to stick around long. Twists are unraveling the fabric of the shows’s format, manufactured excitement is leading to viewer fatigue, and reality competitions are often more frustrating than fun nowadays.

The Masked Singer is a Breath of Fresh Air

The Peacock’s identity is revealed on The Masked Singer Season 1 finale

Over the past few years, The Masked Singer franchise has become a worldwide phenomenon. The concept of celebrities wearing campy, ridiculous outfits to get up onstage and sing with their identities hidden is undoubtedly silly, to the point that not many people thought it would catch on (and were promptly proven wrong on premiere week). But it actually works very well, because it just owns it and doesn’t try to turn it into anything else.

What’s The Secret?

The Bee’s identity is revealed on The Masked Singer Season 1 finale

So, how is The Masked Singer making all these gimmicks work when all the other shows that have been using them just come across as desperate? There seem to be a few factors at play. For one, The Masked Singer incorporated and embraced the cheesiness from day one. It came in wanting to be silly and wild, so when it does it it feels like the show owning its identity rather than trying to reinvent it or save itself from life support.

For another – and possibly even more importantly – The Masked Singer is a feel-good show at its core. In addition to the crazy gimmicks, the long-running shows tend to try to invoke negatively-toned tension and drama (which makes it a good option for celebrities concerned about the frequent manufactured drama on the similarly-veined Dancing With the Stars). There seems to be this fear that being sweet and positive isn’t “interesting” enough for TV, but Masked Singer is proving that notion dead wrong.

The Rabbit’s identity is revealed during The Masked Singer Season 1 semi-finals

And that goes hand-in-hand with the other unique aspect of The Masked Singer: it’s a talent competition show, but the main focus isn’t the singing competition, it’s the guessing game of trying to figure out who is under each mask. This takes a lot of the pressure off the contestants and even makes the eliminations – the most stressful part of other talent shows – the highlight of each episode!

Eventually, The Masked Singer‘s star will burn out, but what we can hope for is that its legacy makes television producers take a look to the lessons it’s taught us about how to grab viewers and become must-see TV without resorting to the typical “rules” of how to produce a reality show when creating new programs in the future.

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