The finale of Masked Singer was watched by an average audience of 8.6 million viewers, as per the overnight stats.
That’s the biggest live TV audience for any programme so far this year, outside of news and sport.
The series ended on Saturday with pregnant Joss Stone, who has been cunningly disguised as Sausage, who has been named the winner of this year.
The final drew more than 2.2m spectators than last year, which saw Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud triumph.
Saturday’s episode doubled the audience of first episode of the series.
When asked why she decided to take part in the show, UK soul singer Stone said: “Why not? Life can be too serious.”
“We should wear chips and sausages and sing a song!” add.
Michael Hogan of the Telegraph described this year’s finalist as a “banger” – a sausage pun no doubt intended.
“It made for an irresistibly compelling climax to the reality phenomenon,” he wrote. “This Saturday night hit has been a welcome burst of day-glo entertainment during a grey winter.”
The whole series was filmed last September, and it was “impressive” so, Hogan noted, how the makers kept the big revelations a secret.
“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,” he said.
Amazing Success Of The Show
The newspaper also revealed how this “addictive success” had already been revived in the third series, with a sister show, The Masked Dancer, on the way too.
James Jackson of The Times also picked up four stars. He noted that the “amazing success” of the program was “no doubt been a symptom of enforced confinement”.
“The image of a bored nation slumped recumbent, accepting any imbecilic nonsense, is hard to disregard,” he wrote. “But perhaps this show really is – whisper it – great, silly entertainment in the grand tradition of music hall.”
He added that while the program would probably “won’t have done much for the nation’s IQ”, it will have made for “a happy living room” for many families. “You could hardly ask for more during our winter of discontent.”
The Evening Standard’s Katie Rosseinsky, meanwhile, labelled The Masked Singer as “one of the most chaotic but ingenious formats ever to grace the weekend TV schedule.”
Reactions And Renditions
Masked Singer hails from South Korea and has since become a celebrity on US TV.
It sees famous contestants don elaborate costumes and sing in front of a celebrity panel, who attempt to guess their identity.
Jonathan Ross, Rita Ora, Mo Gilligan and Davina McCall formed the panel for the series, and were joined by Roberts, who won last year, in the finals.
The five detectives were tasked with guessing the identities of the three remaining singers, before a small socially-distanced studio audience voted on the winner.
Hidden under a sausage suit and fries was Stone, who managed to deceive all the judges throughout, with renditions of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Rise Up by Andra Day.
Roberts was convinced that Sausage was actually the first X-Factor contestant Stacey Solomon. Some said they thought it was Sheridan Smith, the actor and singer himself who seemed to enjoy that on Twitter.
“I do very much love eating chips & sausage with gravy,” she joked.
Stone – not Smith then – beat the Robin and Badger characters to the crown. The bird turned out to be Aston Merrygold from the boyband JLS, who finished third. Badger, meanwhile, was un-masked as the Grammy-winning US singer Ne-Yo, who attempted to put everyone off the scent with a mockney accent.
ITV’s managing director Kevin Lygo said in a statement: “In these testing times, we’re delighted that The Masked Singer has brought some escapist joy and light relief to so many viewers at home.
“At the end of a long week in lockdown we’re all coming together and trying to guess who’s dressed as a giant sausage, and quite frankly, it’s been a brilliantly entertaining tonic.”