Great Britain

The Masked Singer is moronic but I see why it’s taken off

OUR economy is in the toilet, Britain’s hospitality industry is ruined and theatres are closed across the country, indefinitely.

Try to think of the positives though, and the knock-on effect that could have on contestants taking part in next year’s series of The Masked Singer.

A year from now, we’ll have Benedict Cumberbatch stepping out of a turtle costume, Dame Judi Dench giving us her definitive take on “Jellyfish” and Jacob Rees-Mogg eloquently explaining: “My son Sixtus Dominic Boniface would never have forgiven me if I’d turned down the chance to be ‘Thingymajig’.”


In the meantime, we’re four episodes into ITV’s second series of The Masked Singer, which is still hosted by Joel Dommett, the only person who didn’t begin the opening dance routine of the run wearing a suit emblazoned with the legend “Who?”

And there’s irony.

I don’t think he’d have minded the indignity, either, as it’s clear Joel can’t quite believe he’s landed a show with such a brilliantly simple reveal at the heart of its format.

So far, this run, he’s screamed: “TAKE IT OFF”, at Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Alien), Mel B (Seahorse) and Martine McCutcheon (Swan).

Then, on Saturday night, “Grandfather Clock” was unmasked as Spurs and England legend Glenn Hoddle, who gave the role absolutely everything and seemed touchingly reluctant to let go of his costume.

There are still eight more contestants to go, including a farting Dragon creature, who everyone thinks is Michelle Visage, Harlequin, Badger, Robin, who performed the trippiest routine of the series, with a piano-playing hedge on episode three, and a four-eyed purple monstrosity called The Blob, who we’ll get to in a minute.

Almost as fascinating as the contestants, though, are the four panellists, who have been joined by Mo Gilligan, who’s definitely an improvement on Ken Jeong, but not to the tune of the jarring £100,000 an episode he’s reportedly being paid.

Perspex glass now separates the judges and you get the impression it’s not just for Covid-related reasons, given the pleasing undercurrent of antipathy that appears to exist between Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross, who really has upped his competitive game this series and is getting right under her skin.

The spare part now is frustrated presenter Davina McCall, who’s full of flatteringly useless suggestions and is desperately trying to bend The Masked Singer to her own will by describing it as: “So positive and joyous.”

And it is, up to a point, I suppose.

It’s another irony of the format, however, that it’s actually at its best when the judges are puncturing the showbiz egos inside those costumes.

'No grand pretensions'

I thought, for instance, Mel B was going to turn the tables and rip Jonathan Ross’s head off when he suggested she might be “Trisha Goddard”.

Harlequin also visibly prickled at Mo’s “Scarlett Moffatt” suggestion. But the highlight of the run, so far, was probably Martine McCutcheon’s dying swan routine, when she heard Mo volunteer the words “Ruby Wax?”

I’d have paid a lot of money for a glimpse behind the mask at that stage.
None of which, of course, means The Masked Singer is elevating television or humanity every Saturday night.

Unlike lame duck projects like The Voice, though, it doesn’t have any of these grand pretensions about itself.

All it seeks to do is entertain, and my heartbeat cannot lie in this respect. It races every week at The Masked Singer’s big reveal because I’m more engaged by this stupid show than I ever thought possible.

And you can call that a guilty secret, a mistake, a stir-crazy symptom of lockdown or whatever you like.

I still really want to know who’s behind every mask and think I have an answer to one of the biggest questions of the series.

“Is Lenny Henry inside The Blob?” No. They got divorced in 2010.

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

(With thanks to Ray Woodford and Steff Koen.)

ITV, call off the Hound

FIRST episode of 2021’s socially distanced Dancing On Ice involved the contestants performing with lots of injuries, but little of the usual help from ITV’s costume and make-up departments.

So we saw a bit too much of Rebekah Vardy’s pants, but not nearly enough of Matt Evers attempting the never-seen-before “bin day” lift on Denise Van Outen, who was skating with a dislocated shoulder, like an absolute trouper.

The contestant who needs to be vanished completely, though, is Rufus Hound.

He’s been partnered with his radical conscience, which led him to denounce politicians, during Phillip Schofield’s golden ticket ceremony, of all places, for not caring about “hungry children” nearly as much as third-rate comedians, with no responsibility, like to tell us they do.

The crumb of comfort here is that Rufus has also promised, “I’ll blow myself up”, on ice, if there’s enough demand from YouTube.

Rufus, the Billion Hits Club awaits.

Great Sporting Insights

(Compiled by Graham Wray)

Colin Bryce: “Norbert Loch. One man who doesn’t have favourites, I guess, because he’s got so many.”

Paul Merson: “Spurs have got seven match winners in their team and two on the bench. That’s eight match winners in their squad.”

Tim Sherwood: “Brighton are going to get dragged into a relegation battle even though they’re already in it.”

Great TV lies and delusions of the month

Good Morning Britain, Ben Shephard: “There will be a lot of people who say, ‘Get Miriam Margolyes back now’.”

Inside The Factory: Yogurt, Gregg Wallace: “This is getting very interesting.”

The Real Housewives Of Jersey, Ashley: “Who doesn’t want to see Tessa Hartmann naked?” (Some time later) 67,886,010, 67,886,011. Yep. Everyone.

Acting daft by Russell

BEST television drama of last week was ITV’s The Pembrokeshire Murders, although I thought the fact gay Welsh actor Luke Evans was portraying a straight English policeman, Steve Wilkins, meant his performance lacked authenticity.

Well, no, of course I didn’t.

It would be the height of madness to contemplate something so small-minded and I wouldn’t even have mentioned it if Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies hadn’t told this week’s Radio Times he’d cast gay actors for his new Aids-related drama, It’s A Sin, because straight actors would’ve lacked “authenticity”.

Adding: “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair.”

Instead of pointing out the rather obvious hole in this argument, of course, the Radio Times indulged Russell T Davies’s double standards, as did a lot of other chin-strokers who would’ve exploded with outrage if such bigotry had been thrown at them from the other side of the political spectrum.

So before you knew it, earnest daytime TV shows, like Steph’s Packed Lunch, were “opening up” what TV people like to call “an important conversation” on the subject.

That is to say, a conversation of absolutely no importance that really shouldn’t be opened at all.

For the record, though, able-bodied actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Eddie Redmayne were put in wheelchairs when they pretended to be Christy Brown and Stephen Hawking and won Oscars.

Awards that, for reasons of stupidity and prejudice, aren’t ever going to come Russell’s way.

QUIZ show host of the week was the heroic presenter of PE With Joe Wicks, who hit us with this curveball, between star-jumps, on Wednesday’s workout: “What is the capital, nah.

"Cairo is the capital of . . . I got it wrong.

"What is the capital of Egypt? No. Cairo is the capital city of which country?”

No conferring.

TV Gold

Keith Allen’s outstanding performance in The Pembrokeshire Murders.

Sean Lock’s Mayor Of Sexy Town Eurovision entry on 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Bradley Walsh dyke vaulting and climbing his way through a funny episode of Breaking Dad. Kenneth Cranham rising above the pretty awful Finding Alice script.

And This Morning’s discussion about Danish cartoon John Willyman, the man with the eight-metre nob, which concluded with Phillip Schofield shouting: “WHAT’S NEXT? THE SUPER-HUMAN VAGINA?” and could only have been improved by Holly Willoughby replying: “No, it’s John Torode’s recipe for meatball traybake.”

Telly quiz

Where would you have heard the following words spoken, on Thursday:

“In your opinion, is making this enormous penis a bit of a hero a good idea?”

A) This Morning host Phillip Schofield discussing Danish children’s cartoons?

B) A GMB strategy meeting discussing Piers Morgan?

Random TV irritations

Yellow car-parking lines appearing in Bridgerton’s depiction of Regency London.

Holly Willoughby asking This Morning’s South African safari guide if she can see “Tigers tomorrow?” (unlikely).

All those insanely stupid hippies avoiding every opportunity to escape from BBC1’s mass murderer The Serpent.

Compulsory Dancing On Ice irritant Rufus Hound somehow combining the very worst of Hale & Pace with Rick from The Young Ones.

And This Morning pundit Matthew Wright adding “miniature ponytail” to the long list of reasons he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a TV camera, which also includes: Hand talking, vest wearing, face pulling, Guardian spouting, Hawkwind droning, jumble sale lurking and schoolboy laughing. Go haunt some other ramparts, please.

CLARIFICATION required. The Last Leg, Australian egomaniac Adam Hills: “My daughter said, ‘Daddy, why are you going back?’

I said, ‘Because the people of Britain need cheering up and I need to go back to cheer them up’.”

Back to Australia, right?

Lookalike of the week

The Masked Singer's Grandfather Clock unveiled as ex footballer Glenn Hoddle

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