The Masked Singer UK: The most Covid-safe show of 2020?

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

image copyrightITV

By its very nature, you'd think the Masked Singer would be the most Covid-secure show on TV.

Each celebrity is encased in a gigantic, cartoonish costume as they sing to us behind a huge protective mask.

It's all VERY 2020.

Host Joel Dommett says the outfits - alien, badger, dragon - were "literally a forcefield" around the singers.

"But Covid rules still meant I had to keep the two metres social distance from them," he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

There's definitely an irony in the show's catchphrase - 'Take it off! Take it off!' - being so prominent in a year when we've all been told to do the contrary.

"It's completely the opposite of the government guidelines," Joel laughs.

"One person per episode is allowed to take the mask off. But the rest of the country, if you can, please keep it on."

image copyrightITV
image captionSome of this year's characters include Viking, Blob, Harlequin, Bush Baby, Grandfather Clock and Seahorse

Based on a South Korean show, the Masked Singer has been a huge hit around the world, with spin-offs in countries including Norway, Malaysia and Australia.

In the United States, big names such as Jordyn Woods, Jojo Siwa, Leann Rimes, Aloe Blacc and Busta Rhymes have all taken part.

If we're being really honest, when the first series was announced, many of us were expecting low-rent celebrities like forgotten X-Factor winners, TV has-beens or someone who was briefly famous for a viral video in 2013.

Instead, it was surprising just how well known some of the contestants were: Kelis, Cee-Lo Green, Skin from Skunk Anansie and Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters.

The first series was won by Girls Aloud's Nicola Roberts, with Jason Manford and Katherine Jenkins as the runners-up.

Joel's assuring everyone the singers on the new series are "genuinely bigger and better than the first series".

"Every week, the names just blew me away."

image copyrightGetty Images

He describes the show as "upbeat, uncynical and silly" and thinks that people need a show "that doesn't take itself too seriously".

On this season's panel are Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall, Rita Ora (who recently got into trouble for breaking coronavirus rules) and new addition Mo Gilligan.

Part of the show's charm is the genuine secrecy surrounding the performers, with only a tiny number of production staff knowing exactly who the celebrities are.

Joel says he isn't told who the contestants are and his reaction when they take their mask off is genuine.

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"It happens a lot this season where I cannot believe I've been stood next to that person for eight weeks.

"It's strange because I can weirdly converse with them when they're covered up and silent but as soon as they're revealed I become so shy and starstruck."

This year's show has been filmed with a small audience following government guidelines at the time of production.

Usually they'd be raucously screaming "take it off" but this year, the volume on the catchhrase was dialled right down.

"Imagine a small crowd of people, whispering take it off. It was like a weird strip club," says Joel.

Who could be on this series?

DISCLAIMER: We have absolutely no insider knowledge of who might be on the show. These are purely our own guesses.

Mollie King

image copyrightGetty Images

Following Clara Amfo's time on Strictly and Jordan North on I'm A Celebrity, it'd make sense for Radio 1's pop star presenter to take part in a challenge TV show.

And after Nicola Roberts' win in season one, surely Mollie could draw on her time in the Saturdays if they invited another girl band member onto the show.

Munya Chawawa

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Comedian Munya Chawawa has become the on-the-money parody video man of 2020, and also makes music as his alter-ego, the posh drill rapper Unknown P.

His patiche covers of JoJo's Leave (Get Out) and Mario's Let Me Love You have also shown he's not got a bad voice at all.

Alexandra Burke

image copyrightGetty Images

Of all the X Factor winners, Alexandra is one of the most memorable and iconic. In her appearance on BBC2's The Noughties, she recently reminded everyone about her incredible duet with Beyonce too. In short, she has the lungs.

In recent years, she's turned her hand to musical theatre but with the pandemic closing shows, could an appearance on the Masked Singer be an attractive prospect?

Louis Tomlinson

image copyrightGetty Images

Like so many other artists. Louis was forced to cancel his UK tour because of coronavirus back in March.

With Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys appearing on the most recent US version of the show, it would make sense to have a major boyband member in there.

Stefflon Don

image copyrightGetty Images

Ok - a curveball entry but there was genuine shock when credible stars such as Skin from Skunk Anansie and Kelis appeared on season one.

In America, rappers such as T Pain, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne have appeared on the show, so surely it's time a prominent UK rapper took part?

The Masked Singer UK begins on ITV on Boxing Day.

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