Ladies and gentlemen … The Hippo!

Fox has a new hit on its hands with The Masked Singer, which is an American adaptation of a hit South Korean reality show.

The studio managed to keep the identity of 12 celebrities secret during filming, and now America will be treated to those performances.

The first episode premiered last night with a variety of performances from a peacock, hippo, monster, unicorn, deer, and lion. Celebrity judges for the competition include Jenny McCarthy, Robin Thicke, Ken Jeong, and Nicole Scherzinger.

The just-launched show has been a ratings smash as America tries to figure out who sung it with host Nick Cannon.  In the Wednesday night TV face-off, the show topped viewership rankings among the 18-49 age bracket and overall viewing audience.

It’s also the highest rated unscripted debut on any network in seven years (excluding post-NFL).  And seven years ago, the mark was set by a brand-new competition show: The X Factor.

Fox green-lit the show after producers agreed to get easily recognizable talent from sports, entertainment, film, or music onboard.  But keeping the contestants secret for the show meant the producers and contestants had to take special precautions not to reveal who’s who.

Contestants were chauffeured around by drivers who had no idea who they were.  They wore cloaks and masks and were kept in private areas guarded by people.  Contestants also wore gloves so that no skin was visible at all.

Take a look at this performance from last night’s show given by Hippo.

Think you know who Hippo is? Think again. Check out the unmasked post-show interview with Hippo.

Producers say that the celebrities behind the costumes all had a hand in picking their animal.

Hippo was unmasked last night, and each of the contestants has the potential to be unmasked if they receive the least amount of votes that week.

It’s a new spin on an old voting concept that took American Idol and The Voice to the top of the charts for years.  But will The Masked Singer surpass American Idol in popularity?  If Fox manages to keep subsequent seasons such well-kept secrets, perhaps the anticipation will create a series hit.