Osher Günsberg is doing his level best to tease The Masked Singer and not give away its best kept secrets.
Who is behind the mask? How was the show filmed? How did everybody keep the secrets?
The host of the upcoming 10 show would not be drawn on rumours that audience members had filmed reaction shots but left the studio before singers were revealed to judges.
“We had to protect how we shot the final moments, yes. So it was all part of the security measures. It was pretty brilliant how we kept it a secret,” he acknowledged.
“Everyone who has seen the masks coming off has done a very good job of not saying anything.”
“Ours is bananas”
There are 12 performers including an Alien, Prawn, Parrot, Octopus, Spider, Dragon designed by Tim Chappel, who will be unmasked in the series based on a South Korean format, King of Mask Singer. That series even featured Ryan Reynolds singing Tomorrow from the musical Annie. The YouTube clips alone are enough to confirm this is a bonkers format.
“Ours is bananas but not quite as bananas as theirs. Culturally it’s an extraordinary show to watch!” says Günsberg.
“It’s a great family format. It’s super-simple: here is somebody that you know, but we’re not going to show you their face! We’ll give you a whole bunch of clues to try and figure it out.
“It’s a really fun guessing game.”
“We have people who have their own door at the airport.”
The US version featured Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond, LaToya Jackson, Tori Spelling, Joey Fatone, Ricki Lake and Margaret Cho. Rumours about the Australian series include everyone from 10 personalities to international A-listers.
“If you want a clue to the kind of calibre of people look to the US one and the status of the people under their masks. We have people who have their own door at the airport.
“We start with 12 and we see one mask come off every episode. There may be an episode where more than one come off.”
Günsberg describes the filming period as compact and relentless.
“They were long but brilliant days. 14 hours or more sometimes. But I absolutely loved it,” he insists.
“I was shooing Bachelorette at the same time but the stars aligned for the shooting schedules with a break in one, giving me time to do the other. Between everyone else’s radio schedules we managed to make it all happen.
“It was probably one of the most intense shoots I’ve been a part of. But to be back on stage at FOX Studio, which is where we did Idol, it was the best.”
“It was beyond any kind of security I’ve been exposed to”
If any international talent shot all of their performances out of sequence Günsberg also isn’t telling. But he does confirm even he had no idea who was under the mask, such was the level of security.
“It was beyond any kind of security I’ve been exposed to in this industry -and I’ve worked on Bachelor finales where you have to protect things that are 6 months out,” he explains.
“They were like ex-ASIO guys who would sweep the studio for devices. There was an entire protocol around getting people in and out of the studio. The celebrities were covered from head to toe, and they even wear gloves so you can’t see their hands. Nobody was allowed to speak to them.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years so there’s a chance that I have spoken to or met a lot of these people. So I’m standing there 30 cm from a giant prawn thinking ‘I probably know you.’
“It was infuriating but great fun.”
“Lindsay how are you going to know anybody?”
Critiquing and guessing the performers is the job of judges Jackie O, Dannii Minogue, Dave Hughes and Lindsay Lohan -considered a tall order for the visiting US personality.
“The first question I asked her was ‘Lindsay how are you going to know anybody?’ But she’s been doing a lot of homework trying to figure out who’s who. She’s a total professional and done a lot of these kinds of shows.
“She was very prepared.”
The Masked Singer is 10’s latest roll of international formats, and follows from a big success with Australian Survivor.
In the US the show has attracted big ratings, although in January Daniel Monaghan, 10 Head of Programming told TV Tonight, “Whether or not it would hold for a number of years, past a ‘stunt’ remains to be seen. You’d have to be mad not to be looking at it, but it’s very, very expensive.”
Now the money is spent there’s a lot riding on next week and whether Australians will embrace the wild format too.
Osher Günsberg is quietly confident it will surprise and prompt viewers to change their perceptions about some very famous people.
“There were two that really blew me away: the Lion and the Robot.”
The Masked Singer airs 7:30pm Monday & Tuesday on 10.