The surprising decision to keep Nick Cannon as host of The Masked Singer following his antisemitic remarks on his podcast means viewers will see a familiar face on the main stage, but the show's host and judges might be the few things that aren't changing when The Masked Singer returns for Season 4 this fall. Producers say that COVID-19 aside, the show will definitely go on and when it does, The Masked Singer may look a whole lot different.
Season 3 of The Masked Singer promised to be bigger and bolder, and it didn't disappoint. With contestants holding 69 Grammys, 88 gold records, 11 Super Bowl appearances and three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame between them, not to mention the street cred of Lil Wayne, and the bona fides of music icons like Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick, The Masked Singer set a precedent for cranking up the intensity every season. It's only reasonable then, that the producers want to make Season 4 even better and wilder, and when TV Guide caught up with executive producer Craig Plestis after the conclusion of Season 3 in May to find out all we could about the new iteration, better and wilder was exactly on his mind for the coming season. What's in store, and how are they going to pull it off? Here's what he was willing to reveal.
First of all, you guys were way ahead of the curve on masks. Suddenly everybody is wearing masks! Are there plans to capitalize on the trend with some merch? I would buy a Night Angel mask if you made one.
Plestis: I definitely think we were ahead of the curve. Yeah, protect your health and your identity! Masks are very appropriate at this time. [If we make them] you'll be the first to get one.
Congratulations on a great season. How'd you feel about the season overall?
Plestis: It was phenomenal. It's still a powerhouse in the ratings but more to the point, the fans love it and when I look back on how much joy and laughter we brought to America, we were a small island. From the pandemic to politics and everything else. I live online the night the episodes air, to see what people are saying and seeing how we can be better next season, and I just love how we bring families together. It's rare a show gets everyone of all ages to come together and watch in the same room. Kids are usually watching on their phones in another room at a distance. With this, everyone's able to come together to play the game.
You promised a bigger lineup of stars and you delivered. Can you talk about what that process of getting talent was like this time?
It was a lot easier in Season 3. In Season 1, it was not easy going out to these icons saying we want to put you in these costumes... but we were lucky that some people got it. In Season 3, people know what they're getting into. They love the idea of getting into these different characters. Lil Wayne -- that was a heartbreaking moment for me. I wanted him to go all the way to the end because that was one of my favorite costumes. But Americans saw the potential for what we had coming up based on that. We worked with incredible legends.
You were one of the first shows to stick your neck out and say you're going forward with production on another season. How are you going to do that, in light of the pandemic, and where are you in the process?
: We're still working on the process and the logistics. Safety is paramount. We're working on it as we speak -- right now, I'm looking at mock-ups of some of the costumes. I feel confident we'll solve it. We don't know what's happening by fall with the pandemic, the election but we are this island. We need to be there so people can disconnect from everything else happening.
How many costumes are we talking here? Last season you upped the number of contestants. Are you planning on adding more again?
: I'd love to tell you that. I can tell you that each season the costumes get better and better. I'm looking at the board now and they're some of the most incredible.
As far as production, are you still planning to have the audience, or are you considering shooting in isolation?
Plestis: We'd like to keep as much of the energy as we have in place -- that magic. We're still in discussion.
Where are you with The Masked Dancer?
We're still talking. We're hoping we can move ahead in the year ahead. There's no idea exactly; we leave that up to Fox. But we're all enthusiastic about some of the pre-planning that was happening pre-COVID.
Similarly, The Masked Singer tour was expected to roll out in summer. I know a separate company would be handling that but where is it at now? And how was that going to work exactly -- was it new celebrities or people from the show?
: It will resume for future dates. A lot of people signed on, so there was excitement... it would be celebs from the show as well as others.
Back to The Masked Singer 4 format, would you still do pre-recorded episodes or is there a chance you'd do live episodes?
We're still working on details, so I can't give away how much will be pre-recorded. There will be more information in the next month or so. The show is working well, so we don't want to completely change it. It's not broken. We just want to make it better.
I've been to a couple tapings, and I've seen firsthand how incredible the set is. Assuming you are making everything bigger in Season 4, can we expect to see some changes to the actual set and stage?
We are experimenting with some novel approaches that will be eye-catching. I can't tell you what that is; we're working on it now. But if all goes to plan it will be incredible. It will be a major improvement.
Last question: I need you to dispel a myth for me. I'm convinced the judges have their phones up there on stage, and they're Googling information. They're not pulling those guesses out of the blue, right?
Here's the truth about guesses. They have to do it for real. Only a handful of producers know who people are. The director, the lighting people, the crew, the network -- very few people know. We do not tell the panelists. We confiscate their phones. When they go home I'm sure they're Googling like crazy; we ask them not to. But on the set, they don't have that luxury. They have to use their brains. It's real-time information. They have to guess. What you don't see is that they each have a binder. When the cameras aren't on them, they're taking copious notes. They're writing down the clues -- they're very competitive and they all want to get it right. Those binders are their bibles. Every day they leave, we put them in a vault.
The Masked Singer Season 4 is expected to return to Fox in the fall.