Jonathan Ross reckons X Factor boss Simon Cowell will know his TV reign is over when he watches The Masked Singer this weekend.
The game show, in which a panel has to identify stars in elaborate disguises, is already being touted as ITV’s potential replacement for the talent contest.
The format is a smash hit in the US and Germany, and Ross says the UK version has a proven magic ingredient – madcap US panellist Ken Jeong.
The chat-show host said making The Masked Singer was “the most fun I’ve ever had”, while co-star Davina McCall said the “bonkers” series is pure fun and not “mean” like Cowell’s show.
Speaking of how the X Factor boss will react to its launch, Wossy said: “I think he’ll think ‘wow, that’s a great format, I wish I had that format’. I know he felt that way about The Voice. I actually really like Simon Cowell and he’s a smart man. When he sees something good on TV, he’ll think, ‘That’s a smart idea, how can I improve my shows so they’re as good as that?’ Unfortunately, this format idea is taken Simon.”
McCall, 52, said it was important to understand it is a game show – with no prizes or recording contracts on offer.
She added: “It’s not mean and it’s not a competition. It’s a guessing game, not a talent contest.”
Ross said he only signed up on the panel alongside McCall and Rita Ora, 29, when he was assured Jeong was on board. In the US version The Hangover actor, 50, delivers hilarious monologues on who he thinks is behind the masks – and is almost always wrong.
Ross, 59, said: “One of the things I love about the American show is Ken. That thing he does is such a funny thing and so part of the show.
“If we hadn’t had Ken, we’d have needed someone who was prepared to steal that from Ken. In a way, Ken is part of the format. We were amazed they’d managed to get him because, unlike the rest of us, he has a real career.”
And as the post-festive gloom of January sets in, Ross reckons The Masked Singer is guaranteed to put smiles on our faces.
He said: “It’s on just after Christmas, you’re going back to school, you’ve had the holidays, it’s a kind of depressing part of the year. So having something fun, silly and colourful is great escapism.
“You could have it 52 weeks of the year because it is so silly and so fun.
“I think the only thing any of us would be concerned about is that the quality of the people in the masks is as high as they’ve been in this first series.”
The X Factor hit screens in 2004 and the two spin-offs ITV screened last year were ratings flops.
The show will return for one final short run.
*The Masked Singer begins on ITV on Saturday at 7pm.