Review

The Masked Singer UK: the Final, review: Joss Stone's Sausage a worthy winner as show goes out with a banger

4/5

This trashily addictive success has already been renewed for a third series

Joss Stone
Joss Stone, dressed as a 7ft anthropomorphic sausage, was crowned champion

When the chips were down, a wiener became the winner. Cartoonish crooning contest The Masked Singer (ITV) went out with a banger as soul diva Joss Stone, dressed as a 7ft anthropomorphic sausage, was crowned champion. Stone had both the daftest costume and the strongest voice. Beneath that frozen grin and meaty exterior lurked a worthy victor. 

It might sound like a nightmarish, dystopian nature documentary but Robin, Badger and Sausage battled it out in the grand final to be crowned the UK edition’s second winner. It made for an irresistibly compelling climax to the reality phenomenon, which sees unnamed celebrities perform in flamboyant head-to-toe costumes. This Saturday night hit has been a welcome burst of day-glo entertainment during a grey winter.

In previous rounds, the endearingly silly Sausage had proved she could handle big-lunged tunes by the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Jennifer Hudson and Lizzo. In the final, she nailed Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Rise Up by Andra Day. The warbling saveloy’s serious set of pipes just edged out brock ’n’ roll star Badger. 

His fake Cockney accent failed to fool anyone. The leather-clad creature turned out to be US r’n’b smoothie Ne-Yo. A charismatic performer despite the furry disguise, his dramatic renditions of Believer by Imagine Dragons and Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus were unfortunate not to win. Do not adjust your sett. The runner-up really was in black and white.

This second series of the absurdist sing-off, imported from a South Korean format, has improved on last year’s debut run. Now that celebrities knew what they were getting into - and also happened to be twiddling their thumbs in lockdown - it attracted higher calibre names. Ratings reached a new high of 8m as a result, making it the biggest TV show of 2021 so far.

We’ve seen proper pop singers unmasked, several of them embarrassingly early in the contest: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Gabrielle, Aha’s Morten Harket and Mel B, aka Scary Spice. Actors and comedians have also flexed their vocal cords, with Sue Perkins, John Thomson, Martine McCutcheon and Lenny Henry hiding behind outlandish disguises. 

This year might not have delivered anything quite as gloriously random as former Home Secretary Alan Johnson dressed an Egyptian pharaoh but there have still been surreal moments. Former England football manager Glenn Hoddle belting out a Barry Manilow ballad as a grandfather clock? Nurse, I’m having one of my fever dreams. 

The downside was that several possessed such distinctive voices - see Ellis-Bextor, Gabrielle, Harket and Henry - it was too easy to guess their identities. Yet there was still satisfaction from being proved right and it’s always a must-see moment when they teasingly take off their mask for the first time.

The judging panel has been enhanced by ditching the random shouty American (comedian Ken Jeong, brought over to retain continuity from the US version but baffled by British culture) and replacing him with BAFTA-winning funnyman Mo Gilligan. He and fellow judges Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall and Rita Ora were joined by reigning champion Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud, aka Queen Bee, as a guest panellist for this final. With her forensic guesses and dry wit, Roberts immediately put the miffed-looking Ora firmly in the shade.

Nicola Roberts, who won series 1 as Queen Bee, returned to be on the panel for the final

How ITV manages to keep “TV’s best-kept secret™” is impressive. This eight-parter was filmed last autumn, with the cast list protected by all manner of security measures, embargoes and non-disclosure agreements. The lack of tabloid leaks or social media spoilers is testament to how, even in our age of instant information, audiences still appreciate a surprise. 

Over the past seven weeks, 12 mystery contestants had been whittled down to three. Ironically, Robin - the only finalist never to have been at risk of elimination throughout the contest - was knocked out first. Our feathered friend was widely predicted to be JLS singer Aston Merrygold. When this proved correct, it was anti-climactic. Even the professionally gormless Ora guessed correctly.

The nine eliminated contestants returned for a curtain-raising group number. Well, allegedly. It was impossible to tell beneath those costumes. Dapper host Joel Dommett presided over proceedings with a knowingly raised eyebrow and a penchant for painful puns. 

After 11 months of us all wearing masks for more serious reasons, the unhinged yet strangely gripping series has been a tonic. As a dose of communal joy at an isolated time. It prioritised fun, frivolity and surreal spectacle over the naked ambition and sob stories of more earnest crooning contests

This trashily addictive success has already been renewed for a third series. ITV have also secured rights to its sister show, The Masked Dancer. Whether it’s pandemic PPE or kitschy stage costumes, we’re unlikely to see the back of masks for a while yet.