Avant-garde dramatist Eugene Ionesco wrote a play, called “Rhinoceros,” in which residents of a small French town turn into rhinos.
Pretty absurd — but not as absurd as the singing competition “The Masked Singer” (9 p.m. Wednesdays on Fox, based on the South Korean hit “The King of Mask Singer”).
There are no rhinos … but there are contestants who go by names like Hippo, Unicorn and Peacock. They wear fabulous costumes depicting their animal personas as they sing and dance before an audience. Unlike participants in other TV singing contests, they’re not unknowns. They are, as host Nick Cannon boasts, “Emmy winners, Grammy winners, Hall of Famers” (as in sports).
A panel of judges critiques each singer and tries to guess their real identity based on clues from the performer’s introduction. I believe that in the history of jurisprudence, no group of judges has done a better job at being effortlessly ridonkulous.
Judge Jenny McCarthy looks at Unicorn, clad in a poufy white gown and horned horsehead mask, and muses that unicorns are pure, so the singer “is definitely not Madonna.”
Dear Jenny McCarthy, I cannot imagine any circumstance in which Madonna would be on this show.
Judge Robin Thicke proves he is a master at blurring lines between reality and fantasy when he wonders if the strong-voiced Peacock, who says he’s been in the spotlight since age 5 and was a friend of Michael Jackson, might be … Jimmy Kimmel?
The initial game plan seems to be three two-contestant sing-offs per show. The audience picks a winner from each; the judges vote to cast off one of the three losers, who then removes the mask.
The diabolical hook of this extremely guilty pleasure show is that you want to keep watching to find out who the Unicorn and Peacock really are and why a celebrity is doing this. Engineering a comeback? Seeking revenge against online haters? Fulfilling a lifelong dream to sing and dance in an animal costume?
The reveal in Episode 1 was that Hippo was Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown, who seemed thrilled to be there. But does anyone care?
Perhaps Ionesco has the final word: “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”