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Masked Singer's Ken Jeong Explains His New 'Cathartic' Game Show I Can See Your Voice — Plus, Watch a Sneak Peek

You may not expect I Can See Your Voice, Fox’s latest goofy, Wednesday-night game show, to hit you square in your feelings. Host Ken Jeong certainly didn’t… and then he found himself experiencing — in his own, incredulous words — “emotional beats” in the midst of an unscripted musical series.

“Maybe because of the world we live in with the pandemic,” Jeong muses to TVLine, adding that I Can See Your Voice and its lead-in,The Masked Singer (on which he is a panelist) gave him the same feeling.  “Usually the logline is, you want to give the viewer an escape. We’re all looking for an escape,” he says, laughing as he refers to the show’s cast. “It got cathartic. On both of those shows, I’ve had moments of unexpected emotion. And I think it’s directly because of the world we live in.”

Ahead of I Can See Your Voice‘s series debut (Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 9/c), we asked Jeong to give us a run-through of how the South Korean format has been adapted for American audiences.

TVLINE | I’ve read about the show, but I have to admit: I don’t fully understand how it all shakes out.
Ultimately, this show is all about helping somebody win $100,000. That’s the way I look at the show, that’s the way I explain the show to the contestant while on air. Because there are a lot of moving parts — to your point — to the format… And we’re doing that by helping you determine if these six secret voices are “good” singers or “bad” singers. If they’re bad singers, you win $10,000 per round, until the very end. Because if the last singer remaining is a good singer, then you can win up to $100,000. In a nutshell: You want to eliminate as many bad singers as possible so the last singer standing is a good one at the end. And then that good singer, hopefully a good singer, will do a musical duet with — like in our series premiere — Nick Lachey. If that singer is a good singer, you can win up to $100,000.

TVLINE | If the singer is a bad singer, does the duet still happen?
Yes… At the end, when every singer is eliminated, they’re eliminated by actually singing a song. And when that singer sings a song, you can tell right off the bat that they’re a bad singer. So you’re having that dynamic in the early rounds: If the singer is bad, we’re all jumping for joy, because we’ve won [the contestant] $10,000. So we’re so happy. And if the singer’s got a beautiful voice in the early rounds, we’re all devastated. And here’s the catch: In the final round, if the contestant decides to go for it and risk it all to win $100,000, if the last singer standing is a bad singer, that person wins nothing. It is all or none, at that point. It’s so suspenseful. Including the pilot, I’ve done over 10 of these, and it is very stressful at the end.

TVLINE | About how often are the contestants right?
That, I can’t give away. I think the producers would kill me. [Laughs] What I can safely say: There’s a lot more suspense than meets the eye. Because when you look at it on first glance, it’s like, “OK, that’s the dumb guy from The Masked Singer having his own show. That’s cute. Probably more dumb!” And then at the end, they’re like, “What is going on here? I feel like I just went through a final!” It just ratchets up. It’s like a rollercoaster ride where it starts off, segued out of The Masked Singer, like “Choo-choo, this is a lovely train.” And then at the end, you’re like, “Oh my god, this is a rollercoaster that is going in a loop, up and down, and then backwards, up and down.”

But at the end of the day, it’s really a good companion for The Masked Singer. Because on The Masked Singer, you’re saying, “Who is the singer?” And I Can See Your Voice, it’s more like, “Is that singer good or bad?” I give Fox a lot of credit for the placement of the show because, whether I’m involved or not, there’s a nice throughline for the show… The aestethic and the tone — I look at it as a two-hour block of musical mystery.

TVLINE | A bunch of our readers have said that The Masked Singer is a nice hour they can watch with their families, and this seems of its ilk.
Yes. I had my own family watch an episode, and my kids are in middle school, and they were like, “Dad, this show is really suspenseful.” It was as honest a compliment as it gets.

TVLINE | There are a lot of people who have been on The Masked Singer who show up on I Can See Your Voice: Nicole Scherzinger, Donny Osmond, Kelly Osbourne, Adrienne Bailon, Robin Thicke — which leads me to believe you’re building a Ryan Murphy-like troupe of performers who’ll follow you from project to project.
[Laughs] It’s like The Masked Singer repertory company of this merry band of musicians, and then fringe players like me that want to hang out with musicians. [Laughs]

Press PLAY on the exclusive sneak peek above to hear Jeong — as well as I Can See Your Voice‘s Cheryl Hines, Bailon and others — get to the heart of the show’s format. Then hit the comments: Are you planning to watch?