Genre has real momentum and a few risks can push it to next level
The Masked Singer has helped me kick off 2020 with a smile on my face – and it sounds as though it’s done a similar job for the entertainment community.
This week’s special issue of Broadcast gets to grips with efforts to energise a genre that has felt a little down in the dumps in terms of new launches in recent years, and the zany ITV/Bandicoot show has reignited ambition across the board.
Patsy Palmer, Alan Johnson and Justin Hawkins is a bit of an unholy trinity when it comes to talent – fingers crossed they have a few more recognisable figures in future episodes, for Ken’s sake at least – but that almost doesn’t matter.
The show is joyous, it looks great – plaudits to costume design firm Plunge Creations – and it feels really distinctive.
I do have a few concerns about The Masked Singer’s series-on- series longevity, and at 90 minutes it feels too long – fast-forwarding some of the filler moments definitely improves the viewing experience – but overall it is a resounding success.
For the third episode to be delivering overnights of more than 5 million and almost 29% share makes it a bona fide hit.
It is also interesting to see how effective the official Masked Singer UK Twitter account has been in curating and promoting the social media buzz.
The show has prompted online guesses and comments from celebrities such as Gary Barlow, Louise Redknapp and Peter Crouch, and by challenging its audience at home to do exactly what its ‘judges’ are doing, it feels genuinely inclusive.
“The true mark of an entertainment renaissance would be quirky and original British ideas being piloted and picked up on a regular basis”
For a long time, second-screen playalong felt like it required a complex companion app – perhaps an interactive format and a strong Twitter presence is actually the way to go.
In the wider sense, taking a few risks on new formats is definitely what’s needed. The Masked Singer had to be a hit in the US before a UK broadcaster would take a punt, and the true mark of an entertainment renaissance would be quirky and original British ideas being piloted and picked up on a regular basis.
Its easy for me to write that, and hard for broadcasters to do – but it must be the way forward. With the proliferation of crime docs and a bloody glut of murderous dramas, entertainment offers genuine balance to the schedules.
At a time when Netflix is hiring entertainment commissioners from ITV (Ben Kelly) and tasking Talkback with creating an epic dating format with contestants from across the world, the PSBs need to embrace the creativity that is right under their noses.
- Chris Curtis is the editor-in-chief of Broadcast