|LADY GAGA AND THE MUPPETS HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR (abc, 2013)|
Why was it such a misfit?
Yes, this exists.
But it's less awkward than you might think. "With Gaga in the room how can ANYTHING not be awkward?" you might ask. Well, this was a hard special to write about; so much so that this entry did not first appear until mid-January. You know what the main problem causing the delay was? I think I like it. I was not anticipating this.
And explaining WHY is going to be the hardest part, especially since this review has the unfortunate luck of coming out ONE DAY after Gaga's extremely controversial Golden Globe win for Best Actress (if I had the foresight to know the timing would have been this bad, I would have skipped Christmas and New Year's and just spent the entire week banging on the keys). Ms. Germanotta comes out dressed like some kind of hungover version of Madison the Mermaid, and moves like it as well. My first thought was "she must not be able to dance," but she has a duet with Joseph Gordon-Levitt later where she proves she CAN dance. She simply chooses not to at this time, yet another example of the fascinating mysteriousness she exhibits. Or she could just be on something, I don't know.
Lady G opens with "Goddess of Love." Don't wait for "Bad Romance" or "Poker Face" because you're not getting those. Part of the reason this special exists is to promote "Artpop," which was Gaga's new CD at the time. Thus, she will be performing nothing but songs from that album. Honestly, though? I like "Goddess of Love" a lot, and it makes me wonder why "Applause" was promoted as the big single from that record instead of this one.
Kristen Bell is also here, though I'm not sure why. Maybe she was misled into thinking there would be sloths in the special. I wonder if she's tired of "sloth" remarks yet. (Too bad, Bell; this is the rest of your life.)
She runs into Miss Piggy, and seems excited about meeting such an influential public starlet. Piggy naturally thinks Bell is referring to her, but everybody knows the joke is going to be she's talking about Gaga. Speaking of which, she enters the room and Bell asks for her autograph. Gaga looks for something to write on, spots Miss Piggy, bends her over and uses her as a writing desk. So much shade!
Frank Oz is still alive but retired from performing the Muppets a few years ago, which means Animal, Fozzie and Piggy have sounded noticably different since. Piggy got the worst out of it: Oz's pig alternated between angry and sugary-sweet; the guy that does her now just keeps her angry all the time. It makes Piggy less likeable and more irritating.
Every so often various Muppets will appear onscreen to offer candid answers to questions asked offscreen. The first question is what their favorite Christmas tradition is. Kermit is partial to the old holiday Yule Log. "Great place to sit in the swamp! Until they lit it."
Maybe that off-putting Muppet TV show ABC is running is making everything else look better in comparison, but the Muppet bits in this special felt closer to the classic era than any other recent effort I've seen. For one thing, they actually had a scene where a big fat monster comes up and eats a small defenseless creature. This was a frequent gag in the Henson years and I've missed it. There will be no little monsters in this special (ironically).
The monster was part of an "audition" sketch where Kermit and Scooter held a screening for talent; Gonzo simply stared at the camera intensely (it worked -- Scooter fainted), Sam the Eagle said something to the effect of "As an American, I have nothing to prove" and left, and Pepe the King Prawn had a disastrous pretend-skating act.
Gaga performs "Applause" now. Nothing special about this -- it's just a straight pop performance, with generic backup dancers that could've been seen in a Beyonce number. It's a bit of a letdown because with Gaga, I expect (nay, demand) a certain degree of insanity.
I might as well confess this....I don't hate Lady Gaga. Truth is I find her very HARD to hate. All the usual reasons I hate big loud pop stars don't apply here: she hasn't made stupid or offensive public statements, she hasn't been photographed driving drunk or acting recklessly, she writes all her own songs, her voice hasn't been enhanced, she's not the daughter of rich parents who's been spoiled her entire life and handed her fame on a platter....aside from esoteric outfit choices I don't have much to work with.
In fact, she's a huge guilty pleasure of mine. I prefer music that's snappy, and Gaga's output is not only VERY snappy, it delivers pop notes in a very creative manner. Stefanie can also sing: she has an incredible voice which hasn't been enhanced or AutoTuned in any way. I don't even think I can hate the costumes. She's basically taken the superficial game of superstar posturing and made it her own: "If I have to get attention by dressing weird, I'M GONNA HAVE FUN WITH IT." What's wrong with that? Nothing's wrong with that. If you hate it you're not getting the joke. At some point in this special Gaga is going to walk onstage wearing discarded soda can tops as glasses. Why? Because she can, that's why.
She woke up one morning and thought, "If I'm a creature who has the kind of free will that will allow me to wear a dress made of meat, I am going to take advantage of that." You at least have to respect that it's not phony. You know it was her and not a team of marketing executives because no marketing executive in his right mind would suggest 79% of the things she adapts as clothing. She's very weird, but as Kim Possible said, "I like weird."
Here she performs a duet with Sir Elton John. You would assume the most flamboyantly-dressed male musician in this post-Liberace world would take the challenge to go toe-to-toe with Gaga, but Elton didn't even try. He just threw a few sparkles on his shoulders and walked onstage. John, Gaga is beating you with her own GARBAGE!
"Awright, this song is what many people consider a classic, but I'm gonna change the words a bit," says John. "Aw, don't change the words just for me," LG replies, in a tone that suggests she's terrified the song is about to be irreperably altered in all its forms. To be fair, Elton actually did this once by taking a song about Marilyn Monroe and changing the words for Princess Di's funeral; the result was that the song became forever associated with Di instead. But in this case, I don't think "Gaga And The Jets" is going to catch on.
Gaga and Elton play a second song, this one hers: the title track of "Artpop." Toward the end, the Muppets crowd into the room and start dancing. This was the most exposure the "Artpop" song ever got.
They all gather backstage in Gaga's dressing room, where she appears dressed as the love child of a flamingo and a peacock. They're here to discuss what the final segment should be. Several beats in this special actually resemble the Denver special in some way. This is one of them, only instead of Piggy hitting on Denver, Pepe is hitting on Gaga (note him vigorously rubbing her bare leg). "I want this to be the greatest finale in the history of finales! Does anyone have any suggestions?"
Kristen Bell is in the back of the crowd and helpfully suggests, "How about something with PUPPETS?" She gets ignored.
After several other bad
suggestions, Gaga tries to set the right train of thought
by stating "I'm looking for
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is the last Muppet to offer a suggestion: an improvement on Gaga's "bubble dress" called the "bubble wrap dress." Beaker demonstrates by entering the scene covered in bubble wrap, but then trips over. Bunsen can't resist trying to pop him. Animal REALLY can't resist it.
The scene is followed by another Gaga performance. Dressed as a hipster WWI airplane pilot with the combined hair-frizz of ten Winnies plus two, she yells out an Artpop song called "Manicure." One weird oversight is that the entire stage looks like Kermit, yet he doesn't appear until the FOLLOWING scene.
Now this is freaky. Kermit meets LG onstage after the break and they have the SAME CONVERSATION Kermit had with John Denver: they talk about performing during the holidays and how tough it is to be away from home. Kermit even hits the same humor beats by mentioning his swamp again and making frog puns. Lady G's Golden Globe win has sparked a debate over whether she can actually act or not, with the near-universal consensus being "no, she cannot." She can't act HERE, but she's performing opposite a puppet. Denver couldn't pull it off either. I have no clue how she did in American Horror Story since I have no plans of ever watching that, for reasons that I prefer shows that don't cause me to vomit.
Then they sing "Gypsy," which isn't the Fleetwood Mac song but one of the more obscure, back-of-the-album songs from "Artpop."
Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sing "Baby It's Cold Outside." Two years later she would perform this song again, only it would be with Tony Bennett and it would be in a Barnes and Noble commercial. I mentioned before this is when she actually dances on stage instead of swaying against the microphone stand like she's intoxicated, but she actually busts out some moves before this in the "Manicure" number. Trouble is, they're some pretty bizarre moves that would get a lot of looks if you tried them in a nightclub. This is the closest she comes to the popular definition of dancing, let's put it that way.
Kristen Bell and Bobo
the Bear are watching Gaga and Joseph dance from
backstage. "Man, I wish I could dance," Bobo
says aloud. Bell insists it's easy and that she can teach
him right now. Turns out it's NOT so easy to teach a
500-pound bear how to dance in thirty seconds, especially
when he keeps stepping on your feet.
"Probably the worst
thing about my large family is all the Christmas
Kermit and LG are bonding pretty well, and at the end of their long conversation, he says she's welcome to drop by his pad sometime whenever she likes. Scooter then tells Gaga she's on, and she runs off to change.
That's when Miss Piggy comes up from behind Kermit and growls, "COME OVER TO MY PAD SOMETIME???"
Now Gaga, dressed as a large baby bottle filled with cinnamon, performs "Fashion" with drag queen RuPaul, dressed as Queen Elsa after getting hit by lightning. A hit song called "Fashion" already exists, and I actually can't tell if this was a cover that took a few liberties with the notes or was intended as an original song. I would tell you to go listen and judge for yourself, but you're not really going to do it.
This is the kind of special where you'd expect to see a LOT of Piggy and yet she's barely turned up at all. When we finally see her 20 minutes before the end of the program, she's -- what a surprise -- angry. Piggy can't stand that Gaga has gotten so many musical numbers when MOI is the one who REALLY lives for the applause around here! "What kind of a name is Gaga anyway? GAGAGAGAGAGAGA!!"
Piggy sort of does get an act now, but the whole thing only takes place in her head. Surrounded by a gallery of doo-wop singers in suits snapping their fingers, Piggy takes a deep breath and performs "Santa Baby." This is a song that Piggy already sang in "It's A Wonderful Muppet Christmas Movie," and it sounded better there.
Piggy catches up to Gaga after the last break and lets her have it. She's two seconds from karate-chopping LG to the floor (she'd already done it to Kermit).
"NOW LISTEN HERE, HUSSY! I WANT TO GET ONE THING STRAIGHT ABOUT ME AND THAT FROG OVER THERE.....WE! ARE! TOGETHER!"
"Wait a minute......together! That's the finale! It doesn't NEED to be big; the important thing is that everyone is together!" Did anyone care about this plot thread? I don't think even Gaga did; she's reading this line like it's out of the phone book.
Gaga congratulates Piggy for saving the ending, and eager to accept any adoration even if it's based on a lie, Piggy giddily agrees.
This leads to a reprise of "Applause" featuring most of the cast, minus the guest stars. Total running time: 90 minutes. (The whole thing, not this number.)
Hey, those guys in the middle were only in Piggy's dream! How'd they become real??
Why didn't it fit in?