1 The Muppet Mindset: Review: Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular

Nov 29, 2013

Review: Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular

Ryan Dosier - Last night on ABC, the Muppets co-starred in a new television special with Lady Gaga, erroneously billed as Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular, since there was very little holiday-related and less than half of the special featured Muppets. This 90 minute special left me completely baffled and more than a little ambivalent towards what I just watched. Overall, it was a big heap of brightly colored, pop-flavored confusion with some truly solid Muppet bits thrown in haphazardly.

I was truly pleased with almost every bit featuring a Muppet in the show. 90% of the sketches and jokes landed and the special gave a chance for some characters recently shoved to the side to shine bright. Bobo, Rizzo, Gonzo, Pepe, Swedish Chef, Dr. Honeydew, Big Mean Carl, and the Electric Mayhem (including Lips) all had wonderfully fun and funny moments--a lot more than any of them had in recent productions. Bobo's dancing scene with Kristen Bell might have been the most genuine and funny moment in the special.

The Muppet moments before every commercial break were another welcome addition. They all felt very natural and they were all a lot of fun. It was especially wonderful to see the team of Gonzo and Rizzo reunited, that alone gave these bits a sense of purpose. Adding in The Leprechaun Brothers (Beaker, Swedish Chef, and Animal)? Stroke of genius. Throwing in the Electric Mayhem was just icing on the cake. The band has really gelled with their new performers, and for once Zoot got two of the best jokes in the special. His line about cleaning his spit valve had me in stitches.

The sketch (sort of sketch, I guess) in Lady Gaga's dressing room was very funny and I don't understand why the whole special wasn't similar to this--Muppets and Gaga trying to put on a show. Kristen Bell's puppet idea was hilarious. Bunsen's Bubble Wrap Dress tested out on Beaker was pitch perfect. And it's always nice to hear from Lew. Later on, I really dug Kermit's duet with Lady Gaga and Miss Piggy's solo number. In Piggy's number it was especially nice to see her not diva-out on the backup singers and instead just let them do their thing... behind her. It was very refreshing and Eric Jacobson was in top form. Oh, and Statler and Waldorf kept the funny when there was none to be found.

But everything else in this special was severely confusing. None of it was bad, necessarily, but I just did not understand what Lady Gaga was trying to get across here. What part of this was a Holiday Spectacular? Who was the target audience for this when it aired at 9:30pm? Why not include the Muppets in every single part of the special that you can? Why bring in huge talents like Elton John and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and not let the Muppets participate? I know this was first and foremost a Lady Gaga special, but when you invite the Muppets and you put their name in the title you'd think they'd get used more.

I think mostly I'm just perturbed and confused by the marketing of this special. We were led to believe that the Muppets played an equal part in this amalgam of confusion, when that was just not at all true. There are two ways that I think my feelings on this special could have improved: one, remove "the Muppets" from the title and just call them special guest stars--which they basically were already; two, throw random dancing or backup singing Muppets in the background of every Lady Gaga solo. That alone would have solved so many of the issues in this special. Look how much better Gaga's duet with Kermit was than any of her other performances. Look how much better the "Applause" finale was just because Muppets were aimlessly dancing.

From the very opening of the special, it had an extremely thrown together feel. Poor Kristen Bell was the highlight of the special but she was tossed in there with no purpose. Kudos to her for running with it and making the most of her confusing screen time. There was no through-line to this at all. Was it a concert? A Muppet show? Why were the Muppets there? Why were the Muppets auditioning other Muppets for a sketch we never see? Why, why, why? I have to stop asking because I'm just confusing myself even more.

All in all, this special was harmless enough. It didn't make the Muppets do things they wouldn't normally do. In fact, it played to their strengths and their characters extremely well (veteran writer Jim Lewis is probably to thank for that). The Muppets and the Muppet performers were excellent. The Leprechaun Brothers should've had their own special. The Muppet bloopers at the end were dynamite, of course. Auditioning Muppets were very funny... None of it was inherently bad, the Muppet parts were good, Gaga is a talented performer (actor... not so much), but the special was just extremely... meh?

In closing, I think this fact speaks volumes about the special: #MuppetsThanksgiving was trending on Twitter last night and nothing about Lady Gaga was. Doesn't that just say it all?







The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

23 comments:

  1. I tuned out when after 45 minutes Christmas was not mentioned at all, and they called a Christmas carol a Holiday carol. Sorry, libs. Not for me.

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    1. Hmmm...I could understand your criticism better if the special had been billed as a "Christmas" special rather than as a "Holiday" special. Although, to be fair, even that was a bit of a misnomer since it was really more of a "blatant commercialism and self-promotion" special. And personally, I'd just as soon not commercialize and commodify Jesus, but that's just my opinion.

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    2. Libs? Grow up weirdo. No wonder America hates you.

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    3. Show sucked. The Muppets, Lady Gag Gag, and a drag queen. Not the Muppets I remember. Jim Henson productions must be hurting for cash to "sell-out" like this. Did you hear when Lady Gag Gag sang that duet with that other loser? She’s pretty pathetic without her electronic voice enhancements. Nothing holiday about it this less than “Special”. Just more of the same crap that flows out of the Network’s pool of filth. Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe when I was 5 years old watching “Sesame Street” and a half naked woman was on the show singing, I would have liked it. I know... Let's ask Big Bird. The networks have definitely replace creativity with “WTF”?!?!

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  2. Gave it a watch. I loved Lady Gaga's duet with Elton John, and every Muppet part, but I do feel like this was made to promote her latest album. It was an ok special, but it barely gave me a Christmas feel (aside from Miss Piggy's solo and Lady Gaga singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Might be the only time anyone will be able to see this special

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  3. (in response to anonymous) The word Christmas was most certainly mentioned in Miss Piggy's Santa Baby song. Who exactly are these "libs," other than some political strawmen, and why are they to blame? It would have been most appropriate to mention Hanukkah considering that this aired right on that particular holiday, but I don't hear an outpouring about it. They kept things at "holiday" and that's fine with me. Let's be honest, most historians believe Jesus was born around Easter. None of this is a big deal. The real question is why wasn't this special more Muppety and Spectacular?

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  4. It didn't have to be all about Christmas for me to enjoy it since, after all, it was aired on Thanksgiving Day which was also the first night of Hanukkah.

    But it lacked 'Holiday' completely. There was really nothing majorly Holiday oriented about it.

    A through-line was indeed what it was missing Ryan. A reason they were having a Lady Gaga and The Muppets Holiday Spectacular. Oddly, this had a meta-effect on a lot of my friends. By not have a reason for the show in the show, many wondered what the reason for making it was at all.

    It's obvious Gaga is a fan (or at the very least thinks they're cool) and the Muppets had some great moments and dialog. If we can't have a new Muppet Show, a number of prime time specials a year would be a nice way to go.

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  5. The main thing that bothers me about it is that it was a pretty bald promotion of Gaga's new album, and the whole "holiday special" aspect was just a convenient excuse. Apart from the bits actually involving the Muppets, the highlight for me was the duet with Joseph Gordon-Levitt because it was a moment of pure fun and entertainment; even though it didn't involve Muppets directly, it was very much in the Muppet spirit.

    But personally, I think that if you don't take Gaga too seriously, there's a lot of unintentional hilarity to be found in her whole stage persona, so I found the whole thing pretty enjoyable, although I did skip over some of the longer musical numbers.

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  6. So glad I DVRed it. Wasn't familiar with Gaga before this, and about the only thing I like about her now is that she at least likes the Muppets. We fast-forwarded through the parts without Muppets... actually made her entertaining to watch. Muppet performances we solid. Such great work from them in this otherwise shameless marketing of Gaga's new album makes me even more excited for their next movie. Overjoyed to see Gonzo and Rizzo together again. Made me proud of my kids, too... they felt Gaga was weird but not in the "good" way of the Muppets and both felt Gaga needed more clothing (skip all the wardrobe changes in favor of one complete outfit). (Am I the only one that felt like her director/designer must be the embodiment of the "Circque de so lame" guy in Very Merry Muppet Christmas?)

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    1. Incidentally--and I'm not asking this to be snide, but I'm genuinely curious--have you ever shown your kids the Raquel Welch episode of The Muppet Show? Because the outfit she wore during that spider dance number was every bit as skimpy as any of Gaga's outfits in the special, and perhaps even skimpier.

      I'm not defending Gaga; I don't really know or care that much about her one way or the other. I'm just saying let's pick one standard and apply it across the board.

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    2. Lady Gaga's outfits or lessfits were not related to the scene in which she was in. Spide Scene was jungle like. Lady Gaga's last scene had all but her nipples. To each is own. It's nice to know anon has some morals too.

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  7. The show was terrible. Holiday? It was a self promotion show for her album. A holiday spectacular-not by a long shot. Who were they promoting this too ? That's a good question. even teens who love Gaga, don't wan to see her side boob and Kermit in the same show.

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  8. The program was horrible. The Muppets were ill used. Lady Gaga is obviously a "fill a stadium" performer and being close and in HD did not suit... That whirring sound is Jim spinning... Pretty much the only "holiday" mention was a depressing over earnest geez aren't we lonely discussion... YIKES... People were upset with Katy Perry and Elmo... This makes that look ...

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    1. While I agree the special was "Not spectacular beautiful", I do think dragging Jim in your review was overdoing it

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  9. I loved it! The show was not formulaic, unpredictable and truly in the spirit of Gaga. You guys have this pre-conceived idea of what a Holiday special should be and Gaga just say "Screw it!"This one will be a classic.

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  10. I was SO disappointed in this special! I would echo many of the comments above. While I was familiar with Gaga before the show I was hoping she would make an effort to be age appropriate for the audience. It was clear from her first outfit...or lack thereof...that would not be the case. The few minutes of time featuring the muppets were as funny as always. They were like the comic relief instead of a part of the program. The whole show was disjointed and didnt have any flow. We also fast forwarded through most of the performances and remained hopeful that we would eventually get to a part worth waiting for. Sadly it never came. Shame on Gaga for abusing the platform. Shame on the producers for dragging the muppets into the gutter.

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  11. Sorry, but this was definitely not a specular showing! At first I was very excited to watch this show, together with my family the day after Thanksgiving. As I continued to observe, I suddenly felt as though there was going to be a nip slip or sudden exposure. Yes, gaga is a great entertainer, coupled with a great family past time, the muppets, this should have been a no brainer, spectacular show. However, who was really supposed to enjoy this show? Ackward for families. Lady Gaga Tata's nah nah!

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  12. I've noticed that some people have said that the holiday special was to only promote gaga's new album, but i would like to point out that they were promoting the muppets new movie also. so yeah, it was a win win situation for both the muppets and gaga. also, gaga is being true to herself with what she wears. it shouldn't be awkward to watch with families because that's what i did and we all enjoyed it.

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  13. Horrible writing/script. Cringe worthy. Bad muppet jokes. And borderline inappropriate.
    The entire special didn't make sense. I did get sick of them making a concerted effort not to say the word 'Christmas', as if it's a swearword or something. It's more offensive when they pussy foot around it and censor the word. Gaga is catholic, so I'm sure it was in her contract somewhere she couldn't say the C word. Shhhh! It's offensive!

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    1. Anyone who'd find anything inappropriate about this special doesn't have a very comprehensive knowledge of Muppet history. I'd make a list, but where would I start? And how many holiday specials feature the stars proclaiming their particular religious denominations? "Hi, I'm a Catholic." Um...no. It's certainly okay not to like this special, (personally, I give it a solid C) but for the legitimate reasons.

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  14. Thanks for letting me know what went on for the show. We stopped watching after my son spotted Lady Gagas vagina during her first song. I guess kids weren't the target audience.

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    1. yes!! it was horrible.. im 28 with no kids and don't wanna see that crap. paired with the muppets or not. but def not paired with the muppets! and then the dress that showed 75% of her boobs. oh and the fact that she's hideous.
      sorry, that last part was mean.

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