SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the Season 8 season premiere, part one, of “The Masked Singer,” which aired Sept. 21 on Fox.
Two legends exited “The Masked Singer” in week 1 of the show’s Season 8 — and both have a lot to say about it. “Monty Python” star Eric Idle, eliminated as the Hedgehog, shared that he recently survived pancreatic cancer, and he has partnered with Stand Up To Cancer to help spread the word on cancer research.
And then there’s 91-year-old William Shatner, who didn’t last long as the Knight, but after a rough experience trying to sing in that costume, he’s more than happy to talk instead about the multitude of other projects he’s got going right now.
“I worked very hard on the syncopation on the beautiful lyric and all,” said Shatner, who performed “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” “And then putting on that costume, I couldn’t move my legs, they were leaden. I couldn’t see where the dancers were, and I couldn’t hear the music. Everything went out the window the moment I put the wardrobe on.
“So all that work of learning that song… none of it mattered because it all went to hell in that bloody wardrobe,” he added. “If I had to do it over again, I would still choose that song. But I would choose a different wardrobe, a ballet costume. Just tights and ballet slippers are all I need.”
Shatner nonetheless was his cheeky self on the show — which even slipped a reference to host Nick Cannon’s baby making skills into Shatner’s voice over. “I can’t believe it’s taken me eight seasons to be on ‘the Masked Singer.’ I was holding out for the hosting gig, but Nick keeps having babies, so I guess he isn’t going anywhere.” Zing!
Shatner said he really agreed to “Masked Singer” in order to promote new episodes of his History Channel show “The UnXplained,” which returns Oct. 7; his new book “Boldly Go”; his new autobiographical documentary with Legion M; the release on audio and video of his Kennedy Center performance from April 2022 with The National Symphony Orchestra and Ben Folds; his new space-themed watch with Egard Watches; and the launch of William Shatner NFTs.
“I’m busy and I want you to know that,” Shatner said.
As for Idle, he decided to sing “Love Me Do” by the Beatles. And yes, he has connections with the songwriter.
“It’s lovely, and it’s got a nice message,” Idle said. “So I asked a friend of mine at Apple because the Beatles are hard to get permission from. And he said, why don’t you ask Paul directly? Because it’s not a Beatles copyright. It’s his own copyright because he wrote it when he was 16. Which is fairly amazing.
“And so I did. I wrote to [McCartney] and he was very, very sweet and wrote back immediately and said ‘yes, you may do it.’ Of course and he said, ‘But I only want one thing: I want you to tell me when it airs, so I can be sure to miss it!”
Idle said playing the Hedgehog and being disguised all week “was a very Zen experience. It never failed to make me giggle.”
But the real reason he did it was to see if he still could perform, after surviving pancreatic cancer. “This is a very good opportunity to see if you can still do this: Sing and dance in front of an audience and be silly,” he said. “I have recently survived pancreatic cancer, which makes me one of the very lucky people in life. I didn’t tell anybody, obviously, but they were very helpful and they helped me get through it. And it went okay. I enjoyed it. And it was a wonderful experience.
“I thought this is a perfect opportunity to say thank you to all the doctors who saved my life at Cedars,” he added. “I made a partnership with Stand Up To Cancer which is a big organization. [You can donate here: https://standuptocancer.org/?form=EricIdle.] And we started the ‘Bright Side’ fund, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side’ being my song. And to see if we can raise money and push it specifically towards research and early testing for this. We’ve got a bit of good news on the cancer front. Well, I’m the good news. That’s as good as it gets, isn’t it.”
Idle and Shatner were the first two celebrities to leave “The Masked Singer,” but a third — the “Hummingbird” — won’t be revealed until next week. Fox and “The Masked Singer” have been teasing in the lead-up to Season 8 that NFL superstar Tom Brady is on the show this time out, and they’ll continue to milk it until next week that Brady may be unmasked next Wednesday.
The Knight was perhaps the most unmistakable voice in the history of “The Masked Singer,” as Shatner is perhaps one of the most famous voices in the world. (He suggested to producers that he sing in a high falsetto in order to disguise his voice, but they nixed that idea.) And yet for the Knight, only Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg got it right with Shatner. Nicole Scherzinger went with John Lithgow. Robin Thicke picked “Weird Al” Yankovic. Ken Jeong thought it was David Hasselhoff.
Hedgehog was Eric Idle, and Thicke got it right. McCarthy Wahlberg decided to go with another member of Monty Python: John Cleese. Scherzinger thought it was Bill Nighy. Jeong named Elton John — seemingly as a joke.
Multiple eliminations in one episode? That will be the norm going forward, as “The Masked Singer” adopts a new “King or Queen of Masked Singer” format. This season, three or four costumed celebrities will perform each week, but only one will win and move on to compete against two or three more people the following week.
In future weeks, one contestant will be unmasked midway through the episode, with the top two singers facing off in a “battle royale.”
That will continue throughout the season; in week one, it was the Harp — who clearly was the only one of the four with serious singing chops — who moves forward. After each round, three finalists will compete in the semi-finals.
“The Masked Singer” enters Season 8 with costumes including “Bride,” “Avocado,” “Venus Fly Trap,” “Sir Bugaboo,” “Scarecrow,” “Hedgehog,” “Mummies.” Themed episodes include “Vegas Night,” “Comedy Roast,” “Hall Of Fame,” “Muppets Night,” “Andrew Lloyd Webber Night,” “TV Themes,” “’90s Night,” “Thanksgiving” and “Fright Night.” Guests this season include Donny Osmond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Muppets, Will Arnett, Leslie Jordan, Joel McHale, Tori Spelling, Jon Lovitz, Jodie Sweetin, Carrot Top, Blue Man Group, Lance Bass, Danielle Fishel, Sheila E. and Drew Carey.
The Season 8 contestants “boast a combined 32 Grammy nominations, 16 Emmy wins, 8 gold albums, 4 Golden Globe nominations, 42 books, 10 Teen Choice awards, and 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
Here were the contestants and their performances on night one:
Harp (WEEK 1 WINNER)
Song: “Perfect,” by Pink
Clue: Luxury Car Fan
Clue Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of? “I think maybe the award I won for my acting. No, actually the one I won for my singing. No, it’s probably the one for my comedy because I got to share that with my besties.”
Package voiceover: “I can’t believe I’m here on premiere night. But I will tell you, life has a funny way of putting you where you need to be. When I was a teenager, I auditioned for the biggest show in the world. It was my dream. But I didn’t fit the mold and was turned down. I was devastated. But I knew I had to keep going. It was my uniqueness that later gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. And became an idol for anyone who felt like an outsider. The no’s in my life made me very stronger. But I’m not taking no for an answer tonight.”
Panel guesses: Queen Latifah, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson
Hedgehog (ERIC IDLE)
Song: “Love Me Do,” by the Beatles
Strength: Looking sharp
Clue: Constant optimist
Clue Question: Which award means the most to you? “I won a Tony and a Grammy.”
Package voiceover: “It’s so special to be here tonight but this isn’t my first premiere. Some say the show is mad. This is probably one of the more normal things I’ve ever done. Let’s just say I’ve been naked in Playboy. I’m a part of one of the most famous groups of all time. We’ve sold out the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Opera House and I’ve even been a part of the Olympics. I not only have a cult following but also a celebrity following. Bradley Cooper, Jimmy Fallon, Kate Beckinsdale, Tina Fey, Elon Musk, they’re all fans. I’m going to sing you a little song and give you a big laugh, just as I did that one time with the Queen. Cheers to Season 8.”
Panel guesses: Ringo Starr, Eric Idle, Bill Nighy
Song: “I Don’t Want to Be,” by Gavin DeGraw
Dislikes: Narrow hallways
Clue: Lives in harmony
Clue Question: What in your golden trophy room do you cherish the most? “My special awards that are out of this world. They’re not exactly golden, they’re silver. But that doesn’t mean second place.”
Package voiceover: “I’m excited for the kickoff of Season 8 because I promise you, this hummingbird knows a thing or two about competition. It’s in my DNA. I got my start with the help of Shaq and formed a patriotic team that felt like family. Together we dominated the Super Bowl. My career has been a revelation. But I’m only human, and I’m so nervous to step on that stage tonight. But here we go, I guess it’s all or nothing.”
Panel guesses: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Deon Sanders, Rob Thomas, Chad Kroeger
Knight (WILLIAM SHATNER)
Song: “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” by Fred Astaire
Clue: Space cadet
Clue Question: What do you cherish more, the big awards or the small ones? “I love all the awards. The big ones. The small ones. I have a teeny one from my native country, I embedded it in my chest.”
Package voiceover: “I can’t believe it’s taken me eight seasons to be on ‘the Masked Singer.’ I was holding out for the hosting gig, but Nick keeps having babies, so I guess he isn’t going anywhere. Now, I’m supposed to list off why I’m so famous. Stuff like I’m Shakespearian trained, that I’m on multiple walks of fame. That I’ve done stage, TV, starred in movies and worked with George Lucas. Even released albums. I’ve done a good deal but there’s some things I’ve never done. I’ve never thrown a chair on national television. It was two chairs. What can I say I’m a passionate man. I’ve never sold a body part for profit. It was a charitable donation. And I’ve never matted a golden goose while singing showtunes. But there’s a first time for everything.”
Panel guesses: David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, Jerry Springer, Weird Al Yankovic