Let’s be real: the Lady Gaga & the Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular is a cross-promotional commercial. Gaga gets to perform songs from her new album ARTPOP, and the Muppets remind us why we love them long enough to get excited for this spring’s big-screen Muppets Most Wanted. That doesn’t mean the special is boring — on the contrary, it’s delightful! Yet it’s still a commercial, making me feel the way I feel after watching a charming Black Friday ad: equal parts warm, fuzzy, cynical, and depressed by consumerism overtaking the so-called “holiday spirit.” But why fret? It’s Lady Gaga and the Muppets!
The “spectacular” kicks off with an introduction from Pepe the King Prawn, who thinks he’s starting his own special. Silly King Prawn, this isn’t your special — or even The Muppets Show that I desperately want back on TV — it’s a Gaga/Disney 90-minute promotional feature! In the real introduction, Gaga shares that the first time she fell in love was during the holidays. That’s sweet until she reveals that her first love was Kermit, which, sorry, is just weird. Sprinkled throughout the showcase are various sketches featuring the Muppets and special guests such as Kristen Bell and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But the spectacle of this spectacular comes from the musical performances. Here’s a run-down on the night’s extravagant productions:
Venus – Lady Gaga and the Muppets
Am I the only one that thought the Muppets weren’t shouting “Venus” but rather a rhyming word…that begins with a P? Rocking a giant light brown wig and sparkly shell bra ensemble, Gaga fit in quite well with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. (I’m bummed they didn’t serve as her band throughout the entire special.) What brings the number to a whole other level are Gaga’s inexplicable galactic dancers. Each dancer carries beach-ball-sized models of the planets and performs an interpretative dance for their respective planet. In the song, Gaga lists the planets, so it makes sense. (Just kidding, it really doesn’t!) And yet, it does answer the question of whether you can say Uranus on national television.
Applause – Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball
Rocking a tame (for Gaga) sparkly silver gown-turned-jumpsuit and platinum blonde wig, Gaga returns with her dancers for a rendition of her album’s first single, “Applause.” The performance definitely showcases why Gaga is a showwoman with a capital S. That being said, watching to see if dancing in a low-cut top would result in a Janet-Jackson style moment during a Muppets special detracts from the overall spectacle. Plus, I’m so over the Jeff Koons ball.
Gaga and the Jets – Sir Elton John and Lady Gaga
The brown bouffant is back as Gaga sticks to only three hair looks throughout the special. It still looks like the fashion editorial version of what my hair looks like the morning after a night out. This time she’s joined by the incomparable Sir Elton John in a dueling pianos setup. This isn’t the first time the music royals sang together — they left me “speechless” in their 2010 Grammy performance.
Their pre-song schmoozing is awkward, but they make up for it with a Gaga-ized “Benny and the Jets.” Gaga is often compared to Madonna, but this special and her live performances in general recall an early Elton John, especially when she’s at the piano. They can both headline a world tour on their own but — I’m just going to put it out there — a Lady Gaga/Elton John world tour would be amazing. I really want Gaga’s rhinestone aluminum-can-top sunglasses just as much as I wanted Kanye’s shutter shades back in 2007. (I would be lying if I said I don’t sometimes wear them at home when no one’s around.)
But the glasses are off, and you know what that means! Actually no, no one knows what it means until Gaga transitions into:
ARTPOP – Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John
“ARTPOP” is a good enough song, but it bugs me that I don’t know what it means. (I know, I know — “ARTPOP could mean anything.” That doesn’t help!) What is clear is that Gaga and Elton John belong together. I’m serious, I want to go to that show. Just as I start to miss the Muppet portion of this spectacular, Kermit and the gang arrive to join on the chorus. Are the Muppets her ARTPOP? I’ll allow it.
Manicure – Lady Gaga
In a plaid shirt, your Aunt Edna’s glasses on steroids, and not much else, Gaga belts out the best pop rock song about nail care ever crafted. I’m a fan of any outfit that allows her to move like the energetic showstopper that she is.
Deck the Halls(?) — Beaker, Swedish Chef, and Animal
The most incomprehensible Muppets join forces to sing a classic holiday carol. Singing/grunting/beeping to the tune of “Deck the Halls,” the trio remind us that they are the best puppet Christmas carolers of all time.
Gypsy – Lady Gaga and Kermit
Gaga shares a quiet moment with Kermit, commiserating with him about feeling lonely on the road. Gaga’s rapport with the famous green puppet is awkward, but perhaps it’s because Kermit just can’t quite forget that dress. Nonetheless, he agrees to accompany the songstress in a personal tune, “Gypsy.” How does Kermit know the lyrics and tune if she claims she hasn’t ever sung the song before? These are the stupid things I think about while watching a Thanksgiving special featuring a puppet and a pop star singing tunes from said pop star’s new album.
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stops by for a classic holiday duet, looking as dapper as ever. Gaga radiates in a red gown and short wig, although I’m still not feeling that nose ring of hers. What’s notable about this number is that Gaga plays the “wolf” to JGL’s “mouse,” just as Miss Piggy did in her duet with Rudolf Nureyev. Unlike Miss Piggy, Gaga plays the part with a zeal that’s more flirtatious than aggressive. What’s less notable is JGL’s singing ability. I love you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but oh, honey, your voice isn’t that good…especially compared to Lady Gaga.
Fashion – Lady Gaga and RuPaul
For a song that’s all about looking fierce and fabulous in brand-name fashion, Lady Gaga performs the tune looking like the most luxurious bottle of Aqua Net. RuPaul joins in to add to the fierce quotient on stage. The quotient is most definitely raised due to RuPaul’s inherent stage presence. Her outfit resembles Big Bird’s fabulous blue cousin, although I mean that in the best way possible.
Jingle Bells (?) — Beaker, Swedish Chef, and Animal
In another classic Christmas carol, the Muppet trio jazz up “Jingle Bells.” If they released an album, I would buy it right away and play it on repeat throughout the entire holiday season.
Santa Baby – Miss Piggy
Desperate for a spotlight moment for herself, Miss Piggy daydreams her own winter wonderland revue, accompanied by a tuxedoed all-male chorus. (Who are these guys, and where can I hear more of their silky, dulcet tones?) The chorus of her dreams turns out to be a little too good, threatening to overtake her imaginary spotlight. The pint-size taskmaster reigns in her accompaniment and delivers a diva-worthy performance.
Applause — Lady Gaga and the Muppets
Gaga reprises her latest hit, this time joined by the Muppets in the spirit of togetherness. (Aww.) Smiling and swaying like the platinum blonde Cher descendent that she is, Lady Gaga should be happy — the special successfully showcased the best from her new album and illustrated why she is constantly surrounded by hype.
The finale is not “the greatest finale in the history of finales,” yet the Muppets’ end-credits outtakes are by far the best sketch scenes in the show. Pepe gets a little too close for comfort while massaging Lady Gaga’s leg, startling her and reminding us that the Muppets can be more humorous for adults than they probably should be.
+The special had a frighteningly small amount of Fozzie Bear. As a lifelong Fozzie Bear fan, this is unacceptable.
+There was plenty of Gonzo as a total weirdo, though. His obsession with chickens is out in full force. For him, the holidays mean “juicy foods and sweet liquids” and something about “putting tapioca in [his] shorts and sliding down the chimney.” Uh, what?
+Sam the Eagle portrayed a sense of entitlement that hits almost too close to home: “I do not audition! I am an American!”
+The “tad too classy” Shakespeare’s Ramlet made me laugh more than it should have.
+Miss Piggy has nothing to worry about — Gaga and Kermit have zero chemistry.
+The chickens’ response to every prompt is a series of “bok-bok-boks.” Perfection.
+Why didn’t Kristen Bell sing? She obviously has a beautiful, Disney princess-esque voice.
+SpellCheck reminded me that RuPaul is spelled with a capital P. SpellCheck can actually work.
+Miss Piggy’s best line of the night: “What kind of name is Gaga? Gagagagagagagagagaga!”