Lady Gaga proved her mainstream outreach on a holiday evening with A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, a 90-minute special that dialed back the wacky fashion-sense and “little monster” talk in favor of Tony Bennett and making construction-paper turkeys with third-graders.
Tony Bennett, with whom Gaga sang “The Lady Is A Tramp,” said he saw “a touch of theatrical genius” in her, that “she might become America’s Picasso.” Across America, families who’d been eating while watching TV suddenly began performing the Heimlich Maneuver on each other, choking upon hearing Bennett’s grand encomium. While Tony was being excessively generous (or maybe still stunned at having sketched her in the nude recently), this show was shrewdly conceived by Gaga (she directed it) to be a warm, low-key collection of solid performances of her hits and pop standards.
The secret to Gaga's success here was her willingness to throw back to an earlier era. Cheerfully overdressed like Arlene Francis on a 1950s variety or game show, the singer engaged in a charming cooking segment with chef Art Smith. He and Gaga made fried turkey and waffles (the food looked delicious).
Some of the special was filmed at Gaga's alma mater, Sacred Heart Catholic School in Manhattan, including a scene in which the singer engaged in arts and crafts with third- and fourth-graders. In a nicely spontaneous-seeming moment, while the little girls scissored and pasted, Gaga decided she'd do a little educating, and asked the children if they knew who Jackson Pollock was. Turns out they all had. "I ask you what you eat for Thanksgiving and you don't know, but you know who Jackson Pollock is," she said, nonplussed.
While I could have done without the extended scatting on her version of "White Christmas" and the banal chat with Katie Couric (between this and her Regis Philbin special, Couric is being ill-used by ABC), except for the unexpected, touching moment when that chat was interrupted by one of Gaga's former teachers, Sister Bayo.
A Very Gaga Thanksgiving was disarmingly direct, sincere, and unpretentious. It was a lot more engaging than that disappointingly limp new Fox cartoon Happiness Is A Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown. Turns out happiness is a warm Gaga.