Entertainment & Arts

'Bonkers' Korean talent show The Masked Singer is coming to ITV

The Masked Singer Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Masked Singer was a ratings smash in America earlier this year

Imagine a TV talent show where a bee, a peacock and a unicorn take the stage and belt out pop tunes like Radiohead's Creep and Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

Under the masks are stars like Ryan Reynolds and Ricki Lake but, crucially, the audience don't know their identities until they're eliminated.

Well, that's the actual format of The Masked Singer, which has become a break-out hit in Korea and the US.

Now, ITV has announced it's remaking the programme for the UK in 2020.

The broadcaster will pit 12 celebrities against each other over eight consecutive nights, as the public - and the show's judges - try to guess the singers' secret identities.

The surreal-but-compelling format originated in South Korea, as The King of Mask Singer, in 2015.

It transferred to the US earlier this year, when 9.2 million people tuned in for the first episode. The excitement around unmasking the contestants saw ratings rise to 11.5 million for the finale - making it one of the most-watched shows of the spring.

Described by critics as "bonkers", "super-weird" and "hallucinatory", the show has generated dozens of viral moments - an important consideration for broadcasters in a fractured media environment.

The most notorious clip sees Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds singing Tomorrow, from the musical Annie, while dressed as a unicorn.

"This was such a thrill, this was an unbelievable honour to me," said Reynolds after being unmasked, on the Korean version of the show.

"You guys pushed me to my own limits, and I thank you for that."

"Not very often, a show comes along that seems to abandon all the rules - and this is it," said ITV's head of entertainment, Siobhan Greene.

"The Masked Singer is original, bold, funny and a proper guessing game, that we hope will have the nation hooked."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption LaToya Jackson (left) and Gladys Knight (right) both appeared in the US series

ITV will be hoping to attract stars of a similar calibre to the US show, which was won by rapper T-Pain, but also featured the likes of Gladys Knight, actress Tori Spelling and N'Sync star Joey Fatone.

Asked why he had decided to take part, T-Pain, who is best known for his use of auto-tune, said: "I didn't have a chance to come into the game with my natural voice, and, you know, a lot of my peers did, and they get accepted.

"This helped me get my voice out there even more."

ITV said that, as with the original, the UK contestants would have their speaking voices disguised, and be dressed in "original, movie-standard creations taking inspiration from... manga, superheroes, wild animals and mythical creatures".

In the US, the costumes were designed by four-time Emmy Award-winner Marina Toybina, who had previously dressed stars like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, and designed Katy Perry's infamous "left shark" for the 2015 Super Bowl half-time show.

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