SOMETHING unexpectedly joyful happened on Saturday night’s episode of ITV’s The Masked Singer, as “Doughnuts” energetically murdered Spice Up Your Life.
It started when Mo Gilligan got a fit of the giggles.
The infectious laughter then spread along the judging panel to Jonathan Ross before it suddenly leapt out of the television and took hold of me as well.
To the point I was a helpless, heaving wreck by the time Doughnuts had killed the song for good, and probably a Spice Girls comeback with it.
A reaction that owed quite a bit to the dancing chocolate chip cookie, with the wonky eye, who was accompanying him, but something more to the dawning realisation it’s only Michael-bloody-Owen inside that costume.
England’s 1998 World Cup wonderkid. A striker once so spring-heeled he left half of Argentina in his wake.
And now, here he was, flanked by an ice cream cone and a chocolate flake woman, shouting: “Hai Si Ja, hold tight,” like his very life depended on it.
Truly, there is nothing as “ex” as an ex-footballer, I thought.
Michael, though, if it is indeed him, should take comfort from the fact that he’s carved himself a place in TV folklore because absolutely nothing could ruin his Masked Singer party, despite a couple of the others having a damn good try.
First to have a crack, inevitably, was queen of the awkward silence Rita Ora, whose inability to read a room makes Boris look like Derren Brown.
No one can kill a joke like this girl, although she did double up one person when she suggested: “I’m thinking it’s somebody who has a great sense of humour — Chris Moyles.”
“You’re being laughed at,” said Jonathan Ross, trying to dig everyone out of a hole, “by a man dressed as doughnuts.” It worked as well. The evening was back on track.
What could never be papered over, though, was the end-of-show anti-climax that accompanied the unmasking of “Lionfish”, who’d earlier hinted, “I’ve appeared in places I’ve never been,” leading me to hope it might just be Prince Andrew wafting around with those tentacles.
Alas not. It was just Will Young, whose ego and sense of victimhood could no longer be constrained by any costume.
Indeed, he’d hardly been out of it for ten seconds when he was announcing: “As someone who’s agoraphobic . . . ” No one, you see, suffers quite as much as Will, who’s not one for doing it in silence either.
Mercifully, he’s gone for ever now, leaving viewers free to enjoy the many surprising charms of The Masked Singer.
This series, for instance, I’ve particularly enjoyed The Masked Singer’s long-suffering dancers, who are dressed as jiving carrots one minute and propping up an arthritic Snow Leopard the next.
They are the unsung heroes of the network.
The real strength of the show, though, was put into sharp focus on Saturday night by the subsequent arrival of Ant & Dec’s Limitless Win, which clearly thought it had got hold of a format that was as beautifully simple as The Masked Singer.
They hadn’t. The concept may have been straightforward but the show quickly drowned in its own rules, and the poor hosts had to waste so much energy explaining what the hell was going on that there was no time left to have any fun.
With nothing but some fiendishly difficult clues to get in the way of the guessing game, fun is nearly all there’s room for on The Masked Singer, which makes glorious fools of absolutely everyone, including television critics.
’Cos, just as I’m aware Mushroom, who was wielding a judge’s gavel on episode one, probably isn’t my preferred option (Lord Justice Leveson), so I’m also aware it might not be Stoke City bench-warmer Michael Owen inside that outfit at all.
It’d be a huge shame, because there’s only one other person I want to see clambering out of those Doughnuts.
It couldn’t be? Surely it’s not . . . ?
Still no Enders in sight
EASTENDERS has taken a long, hard look at its own failings and the soap’s dwindling ratings and decided there’s only one way to reverse what looks like a terminal decline.
Five nights a week is what the deluded fools think fans want to see.
It’s not, obviously. Short of axing the damn thing completely, great characters and storylines are what the fans really crave.
A forlorn hope, in the current climate, given the show’s one saleable asset, Danny “Mick Carter” Dyer, has just announced he’s leaving the sinking ship and the plot currently revolves around the usual round of abductions and a right-wing terrorist cell who tried and failed to blow up Walford’s new mosque on Hogmanay.
Successful or not, of course, this bizarre twist on reality will have had casual observers wondering what EastEnders did when actual Londoners were being murdered, en masse, by Islamist terrorists – at fairly regular intervals – during the first two decades of this century.
But the answer is still nothing. To its eternal shame, the show looked the other way and sat on its hands presumably because, deep down, EastEnders clearly didn’t think its core working-class audience could be trusted to react the “right way”.
It’s a novel approach to winning back the hearts and minds of the nation which, I hope you’ll agree, deserves its own slogan as the show reboots itself in 2022.
EastEnders: We hate your guts, watch our show.
Unexpected morons in the bagging area
THE Weakest Link, Romesh Ranganathan: “In the 2010s, the singer Cheryl and the actor Kate Winslet both gave birth to boys named after what animal?”
Clair Norris: “A pig.”
The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “The Gorbals is on the south bank of what river?”
Courtney: “The Rhine.”
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “Which native British snake has red eyes and a distinctive zig-zag pattern down its back?”
Josh: “Loch Ness”.
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “Which large striped member of the cat family features in Henri Rousseau’s painting Surprised?”
Random TV irritations
BRITISH dramas imagining they have to fill every dialogue-free second with obtrusive music.
Gloria Hunniford’s “OBE” being brandished around as she stepped out of The Masked Singer’s Snow Leopard outfit.
The Tourist losing me at about the same time it went all hallucinogenic. And Rules Of The Game turning out to be another load of route one, woke garbage from the same drama department who’ve turned Jules Verne’s greatest adventure into
Around The World In 80 Virtue Signals.
The more diverse and inclusive the BBC tries to be? The more narrow-minded and one-dimensional it becomes.
Lookalike of the week
THIS week’s winner is Bez and Doug from Scream Street. Emailed in by Connor David.
Picture research: Amy Reading
SKY Showcase’s The Man Who Bought Cricket putting in an early bid for Best Documentary Series of 2022. BBC2’s The Hunt For Bible John.
The stunning time-lapse photography and sublime Attenborough commentary on BBC1’s The Green Planet. Clive Mantle and Simon Weston beating The Chasers (a great show). And This Morning “bravely” highlighting the plight of poor Yael Cohen Aris, an Israeli model whose image has been turned into a thermoplastic sex doll.
Although it’s the Palestinian blow-up dolls that should really scare you.
Great sporting insights
GARY NEVILLE: “We need to get to the level of utopia, even though utopia doesn’t exist in football.”
Guy Havord: “Steve Evans would have beaten your hand off for a point.” Jeremy Goss: “We always had a habit of bouncing back.
“So after losing to United we lost 5-1 to Spurs.”
(Compiled by Graham Wray)
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