Since ToughPigs is run by several entities, we sometimes have differing opinions. And because we love voicing those opinions, that means we end up tossing them all on the internet for you to read!
In our latest Counterpoint installment, we’re tackling (or, re-tackling) Lady Gaga & the Muppets Holiday Spectacular, which aired on Thanksgiving of this year. Our panelists include Joe Hennes (that’s me!), ToughPigs writer Anthony Strand, and Anthony’s hilarious wife Roz.
The conversation below happened in real-time, so if you feel like joining along, feel free to pull up the special on Netflix and read while you watch!
Will we tear this special a new one? Or will we be surprised as to how much we like it? There’s only one way to find out: Read on, Muppet fans!
Joe: So, here’s what’s happening. Ryan previously reviewed the Muppets/Lady Gaga special, and he gave it a positive review.
Roz: I heard that. Don’t understand it
Joe: Exactly. The special was mostly loathed among the Muppet community, so it’s our responsibility to set things straight.
Anthony: Well, Roz and I have never seen it yet, so we want to keep an open mind.
Roz: No, that’s not true. My mind is completely closed off and I’m only here for the jokes.
Joe: That’s actually way more important! Way to be on the ball, Roz.
Roz: Thank you!
Joe: I watched this special with my family over Thanksgiving weekend, and we pretty much hated it. I’m curious as to what I’ll think on second viewing.
Anthony: Also, before we get started, I have to point out that this was added to Netflix Instant last week, and is now the only Muppet thing on there.
Joe: That’s the saddest. Although Dinosaurs and Farscape are on Netflix, but those aren’t really “Muppet” shows.
Roz: It’s Netflix’s worst Christmas gift.
Anthony: Out of all the Muppet things Disney owns – including 5 movies and The Muppet Show – they’ve chosen this as the sole ambassador to Netflix.
Joe: Yeah, but Netflix isn’t all that popular. It’ll probably fade away like Blockbuster any day now.
Roz: Aw, I still see their buildings sometimes. Like ghosts haunting outlet malls.
Joe: Are you guys ready to watch Lady Gaga’s Super Exciting 90-Minute Album Commercial (Which Has Muppets In It, I Guess)?
Anthony: Let’s make like Marley and Marley and try to find the good in this special!
Anthony: Ugh, I can’t stand that guy. He’s like an 8th grader making jokes about what he thinks sex is.
Roz: Is that really Lady Gaga’s voice?
Anthony: That flat, affectless non-acting? Yeah, that’s her.
Joe: She sounds like she just woke up from a long winter’s nap.
Joe: Wait, I thought Disney treats the Muppets like a kids’ property.
Anthony: That’s what I can’t figure out. They’re certainly promoting Muppets Most Wanted like they do.
Joe: I will say, the Muppets’ dancing around Gaga in a circle is kind of adorable. Walter is especially difficult to look away from.
Anthony: Oh, absolutely.
Joe: I just wish I enjoyed the song, like, at all. “VENUS!”
Anthony: Yeah, it’s awful.
Roz: And the song is not Christmassy, child-appropriate, or good.
Anthony: Ryan said something in his review about “If you think they’re saying ‘Penis’, grow up”. But isn’t that the whole point of this song?
Joe: When she’s dressed like that, you’d better believe people are thinking “Penis”.
Joe: Maybe her clothes are hiding in that giant wig. She’s storing them for later.
Anthony: Annnnd that’s the level of cleverness on display here. Uranus-humping.
Joe: OH I JUST GOT IT.
Roz: Hahahahah. I hate the world.
Joe: Also, this would’ve been a great opportunity for Sweetums to sing a song. I mean, that’s who she’s trying to channel with that wig, right?
Joe: She’s so great. She has so much more charisma than the walking pile of hair and glitter she’s talking to.
Roz: Piggy, please karate chop Gaga!!
Anthony: Yeah, it’s cute.
Roz: Dr. Teeth looks magnificent.
Joe: The Electric Mayhem are burnt out, the chickens are being chickens, Gonzo’s acting weird. Classic stuff.
Anthony: For sure. That gag about Zoot using the same reed since ’62 is great.
Joe: You can tell that’s just Dave Goelz screwing around.
Anthony: Right. Amusing himself. Which is amusing us.
Roz: That was a pleasant bit. Way too short.
Joe: Don’t worry, Roz. They’ll be back. And they’ll drive it into the ground.
Roz: Why are these all so short?
Joe: Short and sweet is okay. I’d rather that than have them overstay their welcome.
Anthony: Excellent point.
Roz: The talking houses had longer bits!
Joe: I would LOVE IT if the talking houses showed up here. That would justify this entire special.
Roz: That’s all I ever want.
Anthony: Lady Gaga and the Talking Houses Celebrate Venus.
Roz: Everybody loves puppets!
Anthony: That “Everybody love puppets” line definitely seems like someone said it in an ABC meeting, and that’s how this thing happened.
Joe: Just one.
Anthony: I know you mean Gaga, but that would actually be rad if one of the dancers was just a Mutation for no reason.
Joe: MISSED OPPORTUNITY!
Roz: Why can’t the Electric Mayhem just be the band?
Joe: Because they did that in the first song. And they’re doing plenty of repeating themselves in this special as it is.
Roz: This song is so dumb, but every damn pop artist has one like it.
Joe: I’m pretty sure Lady Gaga has a few herself.
Anthony: Yeah, I feel like this was on her last three albums.
Joe: You listened to her last three albums?
Anthony: No, I just heard “Poker Face” 57 times.
Roz: “Spit valve” is not a joke.
Joe: Yep. I bet they only expected one of those to make the cut.
Anthony: They really are straining to get this to 90 minutes, huh?
Roz: Are they both drunk?
Anthony: Elton John: “Love ya, love ya, love ya” Lady Gaga: “Hahahaha” Actual dialogue.
Joe: All while she’s wearing soda cans as glasses. I just… what??
Anthony: It’s so wacky!
Roz: OH, she so CRAZY!!
Anthony: Also, this is a really terrible version of this wonderful song.
Joe: Remember when he sang it with the Muppets? That happened, and it was great. This also happened, but it is not great.
Anthony: He’s really not in good voice. Does he always sound like that now?
Joe: He’s so angry! GAGA AND THE JETS, DAMMIT!
Anthony: That’s what it is.
Joe: I mean, I would be angry too if I was on this special.
Anthony: He’s pointing more angrily than Michael Caine! Gaga took her glasses off – time to get serious.
Roz: Techno and Elton John don’t mix in my mind.
Roz: It’s a crime in some countries.
Anthony: She does look really happy though. I’ll say that for this number. She looks thrilled to be playing with him.
Roz: She should be!!! How much money did she not spend on clothes to pay for him to appear?
Anthony: 1 Pepsi Super Bowl commercial’s worth.
Roz: WHERE ARE THE MUPPETS?
Joe: They’re here in spirit. In the reflection of Elton’s glasses. In his dying memory of what a good variety show was like.
Roz: Meaning they are dead and their spirits are floating somewhere?
Roz: Look, Ma, no forethought!
Joe: Like, they wanted the Muppets in there, but didn’t want to write or choreograph anything. “Just have the dollies wiggle on camera.”
Anthony: They threw them in at the last minute to distract from Gaga’s weird “Now I am angry. I lean way back to show that I am now an angry person” act.
Joe: They were just being chickens! That’s all we ask of them.
Anthony: Yeah, chickens just pecking and squawking. That’s the best thing about this special so far.
Roz: Thinking about feed makes them peck, that’s just so simple.
Joe: Oh my god, Kristen Bell is so much better than Lady Gaga. This should be her special.
Anthony: Oh man, that would be great. Kristen Bell would have made a perfect Muppet Show guest star.
Roz: She’s very sweet, but can be dorky.
Anthony: Gaga: “Kermit, I think that’s too you and not enough me.” And that’s this special in a nutshell. Nothing is allowed to be Muppety enough.
Anthony: Sure. That’s a cute bit.
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. I laughed right out loud.
Roz: And Pepe reminds us that sex is a thing that he likes.
Joe: That could’ve been a great segment if it wasn’t for Gaga.
Anthony: Right. Put Kristen Bell in there, and it would be a million times better, like you said. Gaga is just so stiff.
Joe: The Muppets were being silly. They’re good when they’re silly.
Roz: I like it when they have a good time.
Joe: Gaga needs to take an acting class. Or a speaking class. Or a “how to act like a human being class”.
Joe: Seriously, did Gaga just pick three things out of her closet to wear? “Boots, shirt, wig… good enough!”
Anthony: Her persona as a singer is “I seem like an alien,” and it seems like she has no idea how to turn that off when she’s supposed to be natural.
Joe: I think her persona is that she dresses like an alien. That’s not a personality.
Roz: Man she takes off her glasses more than CSI Miami.
Roz: I want this for the rest of the special.
Joe: Yep, we don’t ask for much. Just some unintelligible characters singing a song.
Anthony: Man, that feels so much old times I can’t even believe it. In theory, I’m a little sick of the Leprechaun Brothers as a recurring thing. But I’ll take it over any of these Gaga numbers.
Joe: Sure, but at least it’s reliable.
Anthony: Man, they really need a script for this bit.
Joe: Neither Kermit nor Gaga have any idea what to say.
Anthony: No, it’s just awkward and terrible.
Joe: And I guarantee this is their first (and only) take.
Anthony: “When you’re on the road, it can be hard to . . . celebrate, right Kermit?”
Roz: Holy crap, my [3-5 year old students] could improv better than her.
Joe: How hard is it to talk to a frog? She can’t even get that right.
Roz: There are a lot of episodes to study from about how to talk to a frog. She couldn’t even do a little research? Too busy doing her hair I guess.
Anthony: That’s what this should be – a sweet heart-to-heart between a frog and a grown woman. But the execution is just completely flat and lifeless.
Roz: She only has fun with audiences around.
Anthony: Maybe it’s just that Kermit gets to sing the lead for part of it, but I think this song is all right. Definitely the best one so far.
Joe: At least this is a number with a celebrity and a Muppet singing a song without cutting away to Statler and Waldorf, or Beaker doing something off stage or something. That’s pretty old school Muppet Show.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s true. It’s a duet between Kermit and the guest star.
Roz: This is a rehearsal gig?
Joe: That’s the joke! They were rehearsing, but it was for real! GOTCHA!
Joe: Kristen Bell is being adorable with Gonzo. Why isn’t she the star????
Anthony: I really have no idea
Joe: Remember when Piggy sang this with Rudolph Nureyev?
Anthony: I do!
Roz: That was funny!
Joe: Let’s turn this off and watch that instead!
Anthony: I wish Joseph Gordon-Levitt was singing this with French Stewart instead.
Roz: This song is actually really bad, musically. They are both butchering it.
Anthony: Yeah, it isn’t her style at all. And he’s, well, not a singer.
Roz: Without her techno to cover her voice, she sucks.
Joe: Yeah, she yawned her way through that. I didn’t think JGL was that bad, mainly because he’s got so much enthusiasm, but it’s not like he has an amazing voice to compensate for hers.
Anthony: Yeah, I wonder why they didn’t get a singer to do that duet.
Roz: This is adorable.
Joe: Again, no script. But thankfully, they’re both good performers.
Anthony: Yeah, this is good stuff.
Anthony: He would.
Roz: As long as he doesn’t sing.
Joe: I love that he geeks out over Kermit. He’s one of us.
Anthony: He seems so, so, so much more comfortable talking to Kermit than Gaga does.
Anthony: And then she looks awkwardly to stage left!
Roz: She keeps doing that. 3 times so far.
Anthony: She looks like she can’t wait to get out of there.
Joe: I’d say that’s where the cue cards are, but you know there’s no script.
Roz: I’m looosing it. I’ve got to punch her. DON”T TOUCH HIM!!!
Joe: I finally understand Piggy’s rage.
Roz: Piggy gets it!
Anthony: Fashions, of course!
Joe: Is she wearing a giant condom?
Roz: Fur lined too.
Anthony: Maybe it’s Frank Drebin cosplay.
Joe: It’s like those things the Coneheads use to have sex.
Anthony: Joseph Gordon-Levitt should have sung “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Jane Curtin as a Conehead.
Roz: It’s pretty sad when you look overdressed next to RuPaul.
Joe: RuPaul is all like, “Bitch please, I did it right the first time with ‘Supermodel’.”
Roz: “Oh, you’re a giant man in a dress, but I can protect a sperm whale during intercourse”.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s great. Finding out Beaker can play keyboard is the first time I’ve really been excited by this special. And I like the chickens swooning over Gonzo. That warms my heart. That’s what I want out of Christmas.
Joe: Yes. This is a great use of chickens. Lady Gaga could learn a lot from the chickens.
Joe: Miss Piggy saying “Gagagagagagaga” is perfect. Exactly what we’re all thinking.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s solid Piggy.
Joe: And pointing out the fact that they’re really only there because of the new album.
Roz: Absolutely. And the frustration too. We needed a voice in this and there it was!
Anthony: Sure, it’s a perfect song for her. But man, this is the third time she’s done it in the last eleven years. They could be having an equally great time doing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” or some nonsense.
Joe: I’m okay with it. If only because it’s guaranteed to be good. We need some of that in Lady Gaga’s Album Commercial Holiday Special.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s true. It’s a Piggy classic at this point. She gets to play varied moods really well.
Roz: She’s a great singer, great fashionista, and expressive! Everything thing that Gaga is not.
Joe: She is good at playing multiple emotions, unlike another lady singer in this special.
Anthony: There’s no reason for Lady Gaga to teach Piggy an important lesson about the end of Muppets Take Manhattan.
Anthony: Yeah, this is a reprise for sure.
Joe: But this time, 100% more Mo Frackle.
Anthony: Man, I do love Mo Frackle. We should have watched the Muppets on Family Feud instead of this.
Joe: Next time!
Anthony: No, this is great. Especially the Gonzo/Rizzo stuff.
Roz: We need to watch Emmet Otter so that I feel more forgiveness than hatred right now.
Joe: HUBBA WHA? Sorry, I was thinking about Emmet Otter and Bloopers. That’s when Hubba Wha happens in my brain.
Anthony: Of course!
Joe: I am totally shipping Gonzo and Kristen Bell. They are adorable.
Anthony: Write that fanfic, son.
Joe: Terrible idea!
Joe: And then Pepe touched Gaga’s vagina. Her vaGaga.
Roz: GRODY TO THE MAX!
Joe: GOOD NIGHT EVERYONE!
Roz: Overall… I hate everything.
Roz: Not just the show, but the world that let this happen. I could edit it down to be lovely and sweet, Bell and Gonzo and Bobo and happiness. But, then there is Lady Gaagagagaggag. And I hate everything again.
Anthony: Yeah, there’s maybe a solid 10-15 worth of good stuff
Anthony: Every moment with Kristen Bell.
Roz: Classic and dependable. I loved Kristen and Bobo dancing the best.
Joe: Also the Muppets holding auditions for somethingorother. Basically, anything with Muppets and no Gaga.
Anthony: For this show, I think. Which, if you squint hard enough, is maybe a joke about the thrown-together nature of it.
Roz: You are an optimist my sweet.
Anthony: Well, thank you! The one Gaga moment that works – in spite of her – is the “Let’s plan the finale” thing with bubble wrap and pouncing Animal and Lew throwing fish.
Roz: “In spite of” is the key here. It didn’t even seem like they were in the same room.
Joe: It would’ve been better with someone else in her place. And she could’ve taken the molesting Pepe with her.
Anthony: I know I said this upfront, but I just don’t get the appeal of that guy.
Roz: “Ee’s sexy, hokay?”
Anthony: A lot of Muppet fans go bonkers for him, but 90% of his “jokes” are about having the sexes with the women’s.
Joe: We can fill an entire article about the great Pepe debate.
Roz: The first act with Gaga in the bikini number. It’s just wrong. Christmas time is for sweaters and white fur and PANTS!
Anthony: Also, the Elton John thing, which was not only a waste of a great performer, but an example of everything wrong with the special.
Roz: The fact that there was no script. And if there was, that writer should be fired… from a cannon.
Anthony: The stiff, unscripted banter, but also the pushing of Lady Gaga’s new album at all costs.
Joe: Oh she has a new album out? I hadn’t heard.
Roz: Wait, what’s this about a new album? Manhattan Melodies, what?
Anthony: This special is a whispering campaign.
Roz: Very, very loud whispering.
Joe: Funny enough, this special gives me the feeling of rats running around my feet.
Anthony: And that number is the worst example, I think. They start singing a certified classic, and then stop so they can do some disposable song that no one will remember in a year. Heck, I don’t remember it now.
Joe: It had something to do with being angry and wearing soda pop cans on your eyeballs.
Roz: I think it was about staring and gritting your teeth.
Joe: Okay, final thoughts? What do you think was the overall theme of the special?
Anthony: “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree doesn’t look so bad anymore”
Joe: “Beaker looked great in bubble wrap.” I blanked out the rest.
Click here to sing angry at Elton John on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes, Anthony Strand, and Rosalynn Strand