To all of the Christmas purists who refuse to put up their trees or blast Mariah Carey before Dec. 1, I strongly encourage you to make an exception this year and stream The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show on Amazon Prime Video on Friday. The star-studded special is essentially a visual Christmas carol album, with sardonic narration provided by Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) in an elf costume. It’s a quick 45 minutes of sparkly, festive joy.
The show is modeled after an old-timey network special. Cutaways to a “control room” between songs simulate where a commercial break might go if this were live and not streaming on one of the very digital platforms that are slowly and ruthlessly killing television. In one meta moment, the shot zooms out to frame the raven-haired country singer with an old-fashioned set, and suddenly we’re in the living room of a family “watching” at home. The rest of The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show takes place in a dollhouse-like set decorated with blinding amounts of glitter and bright, monochromatic color schemes. The effect is Wes Anderson film meets Pinterest board—equal parts retro and girlie.
As a striped-tights-clad Dan Levy explains with mock-enthusiasm, the premise of the show is that it is Christmas Eve and Musgraves is unprepared to host guests the next day. An endless parade of A-list friends then drop by to help out, or, in most cases, just sing a song. The impressive cast comprises Leon Bridges, James Corden, Kendall Jenner, Fred Armisen, Camila Cabello, Zooey Deschanel, Troye Sivan, and Lana Del Rey. Non-celebrities like the Rockettes and Musgraves’ extremely sweet Nana (who is listed in the press materials as “NANA!”) get in on the fun, as well.
Some musical highlights include the solo performance of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and the duet of “Mele Kalikimaka” with Deschanel, whose bluesy voice pairs nicely with Musgraves’ wistful drawl. The lovely performance of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with Lana Del Rey was personally validating to me as someone who loves both singers and once described Musgraves to my out-of-the-loop dad as “like Lana, if she were southern and smoked even more weed.” The Grammy-winning singer also takes the opportunity to unveil a catchy new song called “Glittery.”
The producers decided to play it safe by not giving Kendall Jenner any lines. The supermodel instead put her spin on the famous, oft-memed Love Actually moment where the guy from The Walking Dead professes his love for Keira Knightley via cue cards. Jenner does look amazing—standing still, wordlessly holding up a giant piece of paper—in a shiny lime green suit and matching beret. Her version of the bit involves begging Musgraves to trade places with her so she doesn’t have to celebrate the holiday with the Kardashian clan. “I love my family so much, but I spend every X-mas with them,” the posters read. “Our mom calls it…‘Kris-mas.’”
I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that in spite of its lukewarm efforts at humor, The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show is not funny. The cheesy jokes are clearly meant to riff on the 1960s family variety show format, but none of the many celebrity guests (and certainly not Musgraves or her band) have the comic chops to pull off the absurdism. Fred Armisen was seriously underutilized in this regard.
However, the jokes, or really any of the dialogue at all, are not the point of The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show. There is the delightful experience of watching famous people with seemingly no connection dance together, wear matching ugly sweaters, and gift each other tiny, adorable puppies. And the truly incredible wardrobe changes alone—a Cher-inspired gold jumpsuit, pink jewel-encrusted Mary Jane heels, a red gown in which Musgraves herself embodies a wrapped present—justify a viewing. Above all, though, the updated renditions of beloved carols and the few originals with the potential to become classics in their own right provide everything one could hope for in a celebrity holiday special.