‘Masked Singer Australia’ S1E1 Recap: The Horror! The Horror!
The real question underpinning 'Masked Singer' isn't who the celebrities are, but why they're on it at all.
While The Masked Singer‘s first episode saw the soundboard editor press down on the ‘who is that?’ soundbite more times than we’ve ever heard those words, it’s not the real question of the show.
The unspoken secret is that nobody necessarily cares who the singers are, but why they are: what prompted them onto this show? Tragedy? A last-ditch attempt in a flagging career? And how did The Masked Singer come to be — and where will it end up?
In the past few weeks, you might’ve spotted a fluffy pink blue-ringed octopus in high heels at a bus stop, looking like a nightmare fuel of Monster’s Inc‘s Mike Wazowski; seen a lion shake its mane at the bottom of the screen while The Bachelor broke a girl’s heart; or saw Lindsay Lohan guess that the wolf was Keith Urban in adverts littered between Survivor.
And yes, we got that it was a competition with 12 celebrities, one unmasked each episode and that there was a popular US version after the show kicked off in Korea, but still, without seeing it, The Masked Singer felt more like a Black Mirror sketch than an Australian TV show.
The costumes — ornate yet lifeless — look like piñatas, the celebrities inside ready to crack: by the adverts alone we are supposed to be moved by a rendition of ‘Shallow’, but it comes from an avatar unable to express emotion.
As The New Yorker put it in their review of the US’s first season (which featured La Toya Jackson, T-Pain, Tori Spelling and Gladys Knight), The Masked Singer “is David Cronenberg force-feeding The Voice a tab of acid. It is a family of zombie Teletubbies, whistling off-key. It is a corruption of a corruption, which perhaps is a kind of purity.”
None of this is untrue, but I absolutely… love it?
In the first episode, we meet six of our contestants and watch them battle it out via song to ensure they sing another day — another week without being un-masked is another week with a secret. The Octopus is not so lucky, and it’s time to go… Gretel Killeen. In the 30 seconds or so it took for her to unmask, I’ve never been more invested in a television show: passion, pain, terror, laughter, all at once! I guess you could say it turns out it was society who was really unmasked.
When Killeen was revealed, Gunsberg asked the question we were all thinking: why would she do the show? She said she loved courage and being brave, putting herself out there: it was oddly sincere, somewhat moving. For someone like Killeen, this show simply doesn’t matter — she was a good first out, but we wonder how the rest will fare.
When T-Pain was announced as the winner in the US version, he dropped an album and launched a tour that same day — we guess a revival is his reward. But watching, it feels like the series winner’s prize should be anonymity — after spending weeks trying to not reveal themselves, the finale reveal feels like a loss. They deserve a Hunger Games-esque prize where they escape with their life in-tact, forgetting the battlefield as best they can.
All The World’s A Mask
The Masked Singer has a unique challenge. Its biggest names are hiding in plain sight, which means they need a panel and host with the charisma and banter to carry the guessing game through to its end. We’ve got Osher Gunsberg as host, and a curious panel: Dave Hughes, reality tv judge veteran Dannii Minogue, Jackie O and Lindsay Lohan, who Gunsberg describes as “knowing pop culture because she is pop culture”.
Lohan is another masked figure. She’s arrived to host the show shortly after her MTV reality show Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club, was axed, and she’s sold the Mykonos nightclub it was set in. People will watch to see the cracks underneath her mask, and tabloids hounded her during filming in July/August — but so far, so good.
Her quips are on-par with everyone else’s, and the show seems to acknowledge she’ll probably not have any idea who the Australian contestants are. She says “I’ve done as much research as I can do!”, which assumedly means very little, laughs off Hughes’ Mean Girls reference, and generally, her guesses aren’t too bad.
Everything is happening 👩🏻🦰 https://t.co/H34K8pikNi
— Lindsay Lohan (@lindsaylohan) September 22, 2019
There are even more masks in the studio audience, too. They’ve handed out gold masquerade masks to the people watching, who seem to decide whether they will or won’t wear them: it’s incredibly off-putting to find a clump of them together on camera, giving the whole show a dystopic cult vibe. Are they watching The Wolf, or worshipping him?
Speaking of, The Wolf can [redacted] my [redacted] and eat my [redacted]. Which brings us to the masked singers themselves: we meet Prawn, Alien, Unicorn, Wolf, Robot and Octopus, and we will be streaming, stanning and making ritualistic sacrifices in their names.
The performances are all perfectly fine, if not quite boring, which is a problem, as that is the main part of the show. It is simply not that fun to watch a giant fluffy Octopus hold a microphone up their face and sing the Fame theme, knowing that the performance is almost definitely pre-recorded, even if the show swears they’re not?
They dance and move and do funny things with back-up dancers, but I found myself most interested in every section but the singing. We meet them two at a time — they walk out with bodyguards, lest a crazed fan run from the audience and decapitate the mask, revealing the celebrity underneath, sweaty and red from the suit’s heat, far from camera-ready.
Let’s try and guess who they are.
Call Me Detective Pikachu
The Prawn is a “Larry Lad” who “always tries new things”, and Lohan misreads a joke about not eating prawn cocktails as a sign he’s a recovering alcoholic.
You get an image of a celebrity trying to get their life back together underneath, and, given who is saying it, the whole show sags with desperation for a second. Then we move on: he’s from the UK almost definitely, and names like Brian McFadden and Jamie Oliver are pondered.
I really have no idea and am thinking I’ll have never have heard of this person before, but he does give off cool uncle vibes: online, people suggested model/reality tv star Kris Smith, who used to date Dannii Minogue. The dots connect, but geez they make a boring picture.
The Alien, who is definitely Nikki Webster sings Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’, and, as Minogue notes, she’s got a dancer’s feet movements in addition to a cutesy voice and small stature.
The Alien, like Webster, ‘arrived in a stunning flash of lights and sound’ and worked for years before the 2000 Olympics, and had a lot of backlash when she posed for FMH at age 18 (which has aged as overtly predatory).
We’re told metal went her way — the panel guesses something to do with ARIA awards, but Nikki was only ever nominated, never a winner. Guess that still counts — as Gretel’s clue about her role as the narrator in a recent production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show showed, some of the hints aren’t necessarily bending the truth, but they are fond of superlatives and exaggerations of impact.
Robot is Cody Simpson: grown up on the Gold Coast, this once-tween star was discovered on YouTube, used to competitively swim as a kid, and is now an independent artist who would benefit from being on the show. Loading up one of his most recent releases on YouTube while the Robot sang, it was unmistakable: plus, the Cody Simpson fans online immediately knew as soon as he began to sing.
I did not spend 10 years of my life stanning Cody Simpson for my irls to say “yOu dOnT kNoW iTS CoDy hE haS a mASk oN” SIS TRUST ME I KNOW ITS HIM
— samantha (@Waiting4TheTide) September 23, 2019
Unicorn is, spiritually speaking, Taylor Swift screaming ‘Gay Rights! And Horse Solidarity!’ at the Melbourne Cup; in reality, she is either Deni Hines or Angela Bishop, though props to Lindsay saying Chris Lilley, and Jackie O very politely entertaining it.
It’s someone who comes from a famous family, but has made their own career and not through reality TV; we’re leaning towards Bishop, both because of the mention of being ‘social’ and the fact that there was an awkward moment on Studio 10 the other day where Sarah Harris said Bishop couldn’t be part of their office sweepstakes, before trailing off.
But, as per this video of Bishop singing, perhaps she doesn’t have the range. Hines definitely does. TBC…
Wolf’s costume stays ON during sex. Wolf is obviously a performer; their performance mightn’t have been the best vocally, but it was by far the most entertaining. A Neighbours clue has the judges listing off names like Jason Donovan and Blair McDonough, but a mention of staying up all night has the Rob Millsy Mills stans convinced it’s him — that’s the name of his 2004 debut album.
My housemate thought it could be Waleed Aly, but, and beyond a contractual obligation with Channel 10, it’s hard to imagine he’d do this show. Walkley winners could never! Plus, can you imagine Andrew Bolt and the like instantly leaping on Aly in a wolf costume the next time he makes a measured statement? Unfortunately, Australia is literally too racist to Waleed Aly to do a frivolous show like this.
Gretel Killeen has nothing to lose, and assumedly, neither do these celebrities. We’ll meet the rest of them tonight.
Masked Singer Australia airs on Channel 10/Win at 7.30pm Mondays and Tuesdays, and is available to stream on 10 Play.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and will be streaming Alien on Spotify. Follow him on Twitter.