The Masked Singer finale was watched by an average audience of 8.6 million viewers, overnight figures show.
That’s the biggest live TV audience for any programme so far this year, outside of news and sport.
The series culminated on Saturday with a pregnant Joss Stone, who had been cunningly disguised as Sausage, revealed as this year’s winner.
The final attracted 2.2m more viewers than last year’s, which saw Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud triumph.
Saturday’s finale also more than doubled the audience of the first episode of this 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 just dress up in chips and sausage and have a sing-song!” she added.
The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan described this year’s final as “a banger” – 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 recorded last September, and it was “impressive” therefore, Hogan noted, how the makers kept the big reveal so 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.
The paper also pointed out how how the “trashily addictive success” had already been renewed for a third series, with a sister show, The Masked Dancer, on the way too.
James Jackson of The Times also opted for four stars. He noted how “the phenomenal success” of the show has “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 programme 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.”
The Masked Singer originated in South Korea and has also since been a hit 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 made up the panel for this series, and were joined by Roberts, last year’s winner, for the final.
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 the sausage-and-fries costume was Stone, who managed to fool all of the judges throughout, with renditions of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Rise Up by Andra Day.
Roberts was convinced Sausage was actually former X-Factor contestant Stacey Solomon. Others had said they thought it was Sheridan Smith, which the actress and singer herself appeared to enjoy 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 Merryfield from 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.”