SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Season 5 season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” which aired March 10 on Fox.
It’s not easy being seen: Kermit the Frog was the first celebrity to be unmasked on Season 5 of “The Masked Season,” as the hit Fox series returned on Wednesday night.
You read that right. “The Masked Singer” producers had been hyping this season as a “game changer,” and kicking things off with a Muppet definitely lives up to that.
Kermit wore the Snail costume, and sang “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” by Hall and Oates. The Muppet wasn’t available for interviews, but he did email Variety about his motivations for signing on to the show: “After years of being your average everyday talking frog, I thought it would be fun to be someone else,” he said. “The chance to become a snail—with my own built-in mobile home—was too good to pass up… I didn’t last on the show very long. But I loved every minute of it.”
Robin Thicke thought it was Seth MacFarlane, Ken Jeong named Jay Leno, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg guessed Ted Cruz and Nicole Scherzinger thought it was Billy Crystal.
It’s too bad McCarthy Wahlberg didn’t go with her gut, as she even make a joke after the Snail’s performance that “he’s pushing out Kermit the Frog sound.”
Of course, in reality, Kermit has been voiced by Matt Vogel full time since 2017, which means it was likely him controlling and voicing Kermit in the Snail.
“We decided to structure the costume around a mobile cart device that was battery-operated and controlled by the celebrity hidden within,” said executive producer Craig Plestis. “Our biggest fear given the limited visibility was that our celebrity would drive off the stage, but luckily that didn’t happen.”
The idea for the Snail came out of a desire by the producers to come up with a costume that “was a complete surprise,” Plestis said. “In other words, you could not tell from the costume if the celebrity was male or female, tall or short, large or small, whatever. So we gave that idea to our Emmy award-winning costume designer, Marina Toybina, and she ran with it.”
Kermit was ready to sing “I’m a Believer” for his second number if he had returned. Here was the voiceover for Kermit’s clue package, and now that you know who it is — it does make sense: “Hiya folks! You know, I’ve acted, directed, produced, recorded albums, even graced the Oscars stage. I’m rubbed elbows with everyone from Robert DeNiro and Lady Gaga to Michelle Obama. And well, you might say I’m best known for appreciating the talent of those around me. Here, I want to show those harsh critics who’ve followed me throughout my career that I can shine on my own. And now I can’t wait to get out there and snail it, get it?”
“The Masked Singer” enters Season 5 with 16 contestants, and a guest host: Niecy Nash, filling in for regular host Nick Cannon. As first reported by Variety, Cannon was unable to return for the first several episodes of this season due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. (Cannon was still heard at the start of the show as a voiceover announcer, however.)
Also new this season, “wildcard” contestants will be introduced into the competition and join the battle for the golden mask trophy. Season 5 celebrity contestants will be split into two groups of five (A and B), but then all-new masked celebrities will jump into the “wildcard” rounds and compete as well. Additionally, the show has added a new character, a rooster named “Cluedle-Doo,” who promises to add some mischief to the proceedings and share additional clues to viewers.
“The Masked Singer” continues without an actual studio audience, but instead reaction shots from previous seasons. At-home voting also remains via a network of “Masked Singer” superfans, who watched the episodes as they were being taped via closed circuit.
This season’s costumes include Raccoon, Seashell, Black Swan, Snail, Grandpa Monster, Phoenix, Chameleon, Russian Doll(s), Porcupine, The Piglet and the wildcards.
The Season 5 contestants boast a combined 26 Grammy nominations, nine multi-platinum singles, four Academy Award nominations, three Super Bowl appearances, six gold medals and two world records.
The show’s panelists are also once competing for a “Golden Ear” trophy based on their first impressions of each masked performer (which McCarthy won last time) — For the Snail, Thicke’s was Seth MacFarlane; Jeong named Jay Leno; McCarthy Wahlberg and Scherzinger went with Adam Corolla. None of them got a point.
Here were the other contestants and their performances on night one, “Season 5 Premiere — Return of the Masks”:
Russian Doll(s) (two contestants)
Song: “Man in the Mirror,” by Michael Jackson
Cluedle-Doo’s Clue for You: “A Russian doll can sometimes have 15 replicas of itself.”
Voice-over: “I’ve been doing my own thing, for quite some time. Not like in the beginning, when I was the world’s hottest toy. Those were the days. But I knew I was something more than someone to be toyed with, a puppet. And as much as they tried to put me in a box, I just didn’t fit. Newer, shinier, manufactured toys filled the shelves. So, I was cast to the side. And it was the best thing ever. Turns out I can still sell out without being a total sell-out. And I’m ready to show there’s even more beneath the surface.”
Panel guesses: Boyz II Men; Vanessa Hudgens; Darren Criss, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McHale or other “Glee” stars; Gwen Stefani and No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont
Song: “Listen to Your Heart,” by Roxette
Cluedle-Doo’s Clue for You: “No two shells are the same.”
Voice-over: “When I was young, I was pulled by the tide all around the world with my family. Always adrift, I never felt grounded. So, I found my peace by the shore. When my career took off, it was like a massive tsunami of success. But much like my childhood, I still drifted. Wearing many hats, I often wonder if I found my true calling. That’s why I’m here. I’m nervous, I haven’t sung in a long time, but I wanted to face my fears. And tonight, I hope you pick this shell for keeps.”
Panel guesses: Kristen Chenoweth, Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt
Song: “Wild Thing,” by the Troggs
Cluedle-Doo’s Clue for You: “Raccoon is known for being sharp.”
Voice-over: “Sometimes, to get the happy ending, you have to go through hell first. In my darkest days, I faced death. Desperate to stay sane, I recited my favorite story, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” I was Quasimodo, locked away. Only difference was, he was innocent, while I was actually a monster. I promised God that if I got a second chance at life, that I would do good. And I’m still fulfilling that promise to this day.”
Panel guesses: Gary Busey, Nick Nolte, Mike Tyson, Joe Pesci, Danny DeVito
Song: “Never Too Much,” by Luther Vandross
Cluedle-Doo’s Clue for You: “Porcupine is skilled at not becoming roadkill.”
Voice-over: “I may look prickly, but don’t be scared. Where I came from, I was forced to grow thick quills. I was left to fend for myself, with nothing but a dream. So, I went on a mission to get on Hollywood’s radar. I used 411 day and night just to make a connection. Until a certain angel said, ‘hello.’ That random call changed everything. Now, I’m on my next mission. And when I have my mind set on something, nobody can touch me.”
Panel guesses: Jamie Foxx, Idris Elba, Lionel Richie, Ginuwine