The big question we never discuss about Saturday afternoons is: when do you take your hallucinogens? We all have our personal routine for getting through the toilet-tongued hellfug of the daytime: I’m a pizza and Coach Trip-on-catch-up sort of guy, but I know that some of you prefer to try to buy your way out of the Saturday nightmare by surrendering all your disposable income to the demon commerce, or shun your loved ones to go and lob the bulk of your annual salary at millionaires for the weekly ritual of tribal tedium they call ‘football’.
Whatever your anti-poison, we all take hallucinogens on Saturday afternoon, right? Like fistloads; enough to think it’s a good idea to produce lifestyle items that smell like your genitals. How else are we supposed to get through four hours of mainstream Saturday night television? Neck a hefty dose of military grade acid during Final Score and suddenly the average Catchphrase becomes a profound, deeply layered art vision, Ant and Dec become one at a molecular level and there’s a point to Stephen Mulhern. Like the great guru Paddy McGuinness might say: ‘no DMT, no insighty’.
ITV have finally caught on to this unspoken, nationwide secret – what else explains The Masked Singer? A unicorn sings ‘Babooshka’? A massive rubber duck rocks its way through ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’? A tree takes its head off at the end of a Westlife tune and it’s Teddy fucking Sheringham? This is like Glastonbury before the superfence.
You might think such a programme is designed to subtly help us kick our crippling mushroom habit, but don’t be fooled. For Christ’s sake, don’t watch this thing straight. I made that mistake in week one, and the entire gold-plated edifice of Saturday night telly came crashing down. But those of you who’ve ever struggled to name 95 per cent of the ‘celebrities’ on celebrity TV – or who knew that the two seasons of Masked Singer in the US hadn’t revealed a more famous singer than Donny Osmond – meanwhile, remained entirely un-agawp when the low budget likes of Patsy Palmer, Alan Johnson and Justin from The Darkness were revealed as the trilling anti-climaxes behind Butterfly, Pharaoh and Chameleon respectively. Effectively the show is catfishing an entire nation.
The main issue with the format is that at the moment of the big reveal, it expects us to be able to recognise whichever minor WAG or disgraced Parliamentary under-secretary has been masquerading as a dancing offshore oil rig all that time. Yet I firmly believe it’s all a ruse to lower our expectations in order for the second series of The Masked Singer UK to become the most incredible, jaw-dropping piece of televisual brilliance since man walked on the moon or Fleabag shagged that vicar. And it will play out like this:
A massive man-sized Lego brick loses a sing-off to a spangly vole. The audience and panel chant “Take it off! Take it off!” like a ‘70s hen do. The audience prepares to find out which Ibiza Weekender rep it is as the mask comes off.
And it’s Tupac.
The following week, the parrot is revealed to be Kurt Cobain. And the week after? The wing mirror is Prince. And in the final, a singing stapler, Elvis, narrowly misses out to the buttplug – none other than David Bowie.
Because, you see, The Masked Singer has accidentally created the perfect format for artists who have notoriously faked their own deaths to make their spectacular comeback. I mean, the dip in income in the streaming era and the dependence on touring revenues is surely going to drive most of them out of their secret Tibetan opium dens before long. Rather than slope back apologetically, why not announce your resurrection direct to a shocked audience of millions?
Okay, it’s a tough ask for the show’s casting researchers, so we’d even make do with the sing-offs being engineered so that they’re revealed to be Oasis or Smiths reunions. Anything to stop us having to blitz our cerebral cortex with A grade shroom tincture to make it through to QI XL.