Everyone’s been unmasked on “The Masked Singer,” but there is one more mystery to solve: Will it get an Emmy nomination for Best Competition Series? Based on the South Korean series, “The Masked Singer” generated the type of pop culture buzz and ratings almost every other show would kill for these days. But can it carry that to some Emmy love? Here are four reasons why the most preposterous show of the season deserves to be shortlisted.
1. It’s reinvigorated the reality genre
It may be Peak TV right now, but the Golden Age of Reality TV was the early 2000s. Remember all the buzz over “Survivor,” “American Idol,” “Joe Millionaire” and “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” back in the day? Somewhere along the way, networks settled into a formulaic groove of singing competition shows, cooking competition shows, dancing competition shows, fashion-designing competition shows, dating competition shows — you get the picture. This worked, and networks did their various versions of them. But, regardless of how watchable a show remains, it all became too safe, too predictable and too boring. X sang well on Y show? Chances are X is advancing to the next round.
“The Masked Singer,” on the other hand, is not safe. Yes, the super easy clues made guessing at home very predictable, but the entire concept of “The Masked Singer” — like all great game shows from the far East — is so ludicrous that on paper it shouldn’t work. We all probably rolled our eyes when we heard the show featured celebrities wearing garish costumes, singing songs and talking through voice distorters. But it does work. It’s silly and outlandish, just like some of those reality hits of yesteryear. It’s a show where T-Pain can beat Gladys Knight at singing and everyone is OK with it. And perhaps its success will encourage more networks to roll the dice on a completely outrageous reality concept.
2. It’s fun, ridiculous and fresh
During the homogenization of reality TV, shows more or less started to take themselves way too seriously. Maybe it was an inferiority complex with scripted TV. Sure, it’s Serious Stuff trying to make your singing dreams come true, but what’s refreshing about “The Masked Singer” is that it knows it’s absolutely bonkers, doesn’t apologize for it, and wholly embraces it. There are no stakes — just pride for guessing the celebrity correctly and that trophy no one cares about for the winner — which inverts the usual format of a cash prize or a potentially career-changing deal, or, um, an engagement ring waiting for the winner at the end of a season on other shows.
Plus, unlike other shows that try to make stars out of regular folks, “The Masked Singer” takes stars and turns them into incognito Monsters and Peacocks and Rabbits and Ravens, and invites you — us! — at home to play. Celebrity-based shows like “Dancing with the Stars” tell us the stars outright, and that show is all about their “journeys.” “The Masked Singer” puts a good twist on the trope and wraps it in a simple mystery — who is behind the mask? — that makes it all the more compelling.
3. It’s a massive hit
“The Masked Singer” became an unexpected phenomenon and ratings smash right out of the gate; it debuted in January and is the No. 3 broadcast show of the season behind “This Is Us” and “The Big Bang Theory.” It also had the biggest January debut of any unscripted series in more than seven years. This is practically unheard of now with dwindling live ratings thanks to streaming and multiple platform viewing options. Ideally, its success ought to count for something, and a nomination would be proof that it’s got people paying attention.
4. The category is in dire need of a shakeup
The only thing more stale than the reality format is the Best Competition Series Emmy category. This is one of the most humdrum categories and has been since, well, it was created (the other, of course, is Best Variety Series). In its 16-year existence, there has only been four different winners. We all know about “The Amazing Race”‘s dominance — seven wins in a row and 10 total — before voters latched onto “The Voice,” which has four statuettes. “Top Chef” was able to snuff out a win in 2010 during “The Amazing Race”‘s reign. Last year, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” finally broke through on its second nomination after three straight host victories for RuPaul Charles.
Voters are notoriously lazy here — they nominated the same five shows (“The Amazing Race,” “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef”) for four straight years, and after the category was expanded, nominated the same six shows (the aforementioned five with “So You Think You Can Dance” subbing in for “Idol,” plus “The Voice”) for another four consecutive years. It’s been the same six nominees the past two years. This category desperately needs new blood injected into its veins and “The Masked Singer” is just what the doctor ordered. (Also good news for “The Masked Singer”: “The Amazing Race,” which returns May 22, won’t be eligible for the first time ever.) Plus, Fox is airing the Emmys this year, so they could have a lot of fun with “The Masked Singer” during the show.
In the near future, you can check out how our experts rank this year’s Emmy contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Emmy predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on July 16.