Last night ABC aired A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, a 90-minute special that was something of a throwback to the “celebrities celebrate major holidays for the benefit of their audience” shows of yore. Gaga conceptualized and directed the show, which was a testament to her ego and creativity: She sang with Tony Bennett (who called her the most creative person he’d ever met); she revealed the new verse she’d written for “White Christmas,” which was about a sad snowman; she performed a bunch of tracks from Born This Way and the still-undeniably-wonderful “Bad Romance”; she wore a Valentino coat that might have been inspired by the Forever Lazy during a cooking segment; she turned Jackson Pollock into a trending topic by asking a room of third-graders if they’d heard of him (they had, which she credited to the rigorous curriculum at her elementary school, the Upper East Side all-girls Catholic school Sacred Heart); she talked to Katie Couric about stardom and got saved about talking about her love life by a run-in from one of her former nuns; she wore three wigs at once during a performance of “Hair,” which might have been a tribute to the new Thanksgiving classic the turducken but which was probably just her being her usual, excess-loving self. But there seemed to be something missing from the show — maybe a few things, even. Below, a few ideas of things that could have benefited last night’s program.
1. A narrative hook. Last night’s special was loosely organized around Gaga starring in a supper-club-like performance, but something was lacking as far as how the show hung together. Maybe a more Thanksgiving-like story threaded throughout — Gaga is having people over for dinner, and look who she’s invited to hang out with her at her piano! — would have made the show seem a bit less choppy.
2. Some comic relief. Thanksgiving is a night where, ideally, even the most uptight people get so full of food and drink and mirth that they let loose with the occasional laugh or two. But like much of Gaga’s output of this era, the show was a bit too self-serious — which is fine for a segment with a big anti-bullying polemic as its centerpiece (the performance of “Hair”) or for her thoughts on fame as expressed to Couric, but which can get a bit wearying over the course of 90 minutes. Sure, this might be a deliberate aesthetic decision — Born This Way is full of excellent-to-great songs, but somewhat wearying to listen to as an album in toto — but why not bring in a comic to at least get a laugh or two in there? If only Paul Lynde was still around; he would have served as the ideal foil. Alas. (NB: This idea is partially inspired by flipping around the channels earlier in the day and being fooled into thinking that the original, Lynde-starring Bye Bye Birdie was on TV — instead it was the remake, which has George Wendt in the role of Ed MacAfee, and Wendt pitches up his voice in an effort to “get” Lynde’s character but it just sounds weird and shrill and depressing.)
3. More cooking. Hello? It’s Thanksgiving! Although the salami waffle that she made with Art Smith sounded absolutely vile, so maybe it’s a bit better this way.
4. Beyoncé. During the show I caught an ad for a Katie Couric interview with Beyoncé, airing tonight on 20/20. How were these two events not combined into one? Just think, if the whole narrative of the show had been “Gaga invites people over to dinner,” she could have stopped by with a pie and an opportunity to launch into a sizzling version of “Telephone”!
5. Just a little bit less talking during the songs. Gaga has released an EP with four performances that aired during the broadcast, but “Hair” is not included. Which is too bad, because that song is powerful in the stripped-down way it was performed last night, and it would have been even nicer to hear a version of it without the lengthy monologues about bullying interspersed throughout.
6. A performance of “Judas.” But maybe this means there’s a Gaga Easter special on the way? Fingers crossed!