“Touch me in the dark / Put your hands all over my body parts,” Lady Gaga demanded in the family special that earned the post-"Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" slot on ABC this year. But there’s getting felt up, and then there’s feeling up actual felt, which brings us to her costars, the Muppets. Alas, there was little suggestion of a love triangle between Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and Miss Gaga, interspecies love apparently being a taboo too far for the usually daring pop provocateur.
If the 90 seemingly endless minutes of "Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular" had a predecessor, it might be the long-suppressed "Star Wars Christmas Special," though nothing here was so outrageously wrong (or right) that people will still be bootlegging this one in 35 years’ time. At least there was a familiar “why is this happening?” question hovering over the star-crossed proceedings, albeit without the benefit of any guest stars as seriously wacky as that one’s to show up and redeem the incongruousness. We knew Bea Arthur -- we were friends with Bea Arthur -- and RuPaul, you’re no Bea Arthur.
The real reason this show existed, of course, was to promote Gaga’s new release, "ARTPOP," and little could she have guessed when the special was filmed just how much help the album would need come late November. The project just sank from No. 1 to No. 8 in its second week out, suffering the steepest sales drop-off (82 percent) of any chart-topper in 2013. Courting the turkey-narcotized family audience suddenly seems prescient, and you’d hope any parents tempted to go buy "ARTPOP" for their art-tots will be bright enough to assume not all the songs are as G-rated as the ones scattered throughout the special.