The Masked Singer is aiming to return a little bit of normalcy to primetime this fall. The normal premiere season is thinner than usual thanks to delayed productions throughout the television industry, but Fox's mega-hit singing competition managed to film the fourth season for a September launch. While other reality competition shows like America's Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars are very obviously missing their usual studio audiences, The Masked Singer found a way to add a studio audience despite COVID pandemic restrictions.
Fox Entertainment's President of Alternative Entertainment and Specials Rob Wade revealed how The Masked Singer approached adding a studio audience to Season 4 despite recommendations of social distancing and masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking with Deadline, Wade explained that the show actually "went above and beyond the outlines of the CDC and local authorities in order to keep people safe," but still found the way to include an audience. He shared:
It feels that through virtual reality and composite and reaction shots, we managed to create the feeling that there were people in the room. It’s going to feel very much like [previous seasons], it’s not going to feel different. You’ll notice that the audience will feel like it’s behind the judges. The one thing I’m expecting is for people to say is ‘How come they’re not COVID friendly? The audience aren’t wearing masks.’ Through various quarantining and various camera tricks, we’ve managed to do it.
Although Rob Wade confirmed that a small number of people will physically be in the audience behind the judge panel, comprised of Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Robin Thicke, and Nicole Scherzinger, the sense of a full studio audience will be created in a brand new way. The Masked Singer is using virtual reality to go along with composite and reaction shots, and the result should be episodes that feel back to Masked Singer business as usual.
So, if you go into The Masked Singer Season 4 and wonder why there are people seemingly packed in shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of a pandemic, rest assured that the show went the extra mile to guarantee that everybody will remain safe! The Masked Singer also has the option of recycling audience footage from previous seasons without running the risk of biasing voters.
While Dancing with the Stars and America's Got Talent rely on voters weighing in from home whose votes could be swayed by certain reaction footage being reused, The Masked Singer contestants are advanced or eliminated based on votes from the audience that watches live, with the results revealed when the recorded episodes finally air. The 72nd Emmys reused audience reaction shots from a previous broadcast earlier this month without any issue, even if it was ultimately in service of a punchline from host Jimmy Kimmel. Why not The Masked Singer?
So, between virtual reality and camera tricks, The Masked Singer viewers should be able to enjoy the experience they've come to expect from one of the wildest shows on television without seeing an empty studio. The votes will come from a virtual audience as well, so the big decisions aren't being made by the small number of people watching live in the studio. If you want a taste of how The Masked Singer Season 4 will seemingly include a studio audience in Season 4, just check out this clip from the premiere:
The Masked Singer returns for Season 4 on Wednesday, September 23 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, and new episodes will continue on Wednesdays throughout the fall. Be sure to tune in to see the new crop of masks, the new sets, and Ken Jeong's new guesses that will probably be horribly but entertainingly off base! For some additional viewing options as the temperature begins to drop, check out our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule.