×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular’

In the near decade since “RuPaul’s Drag Race” first debuted in a defiant burst of glitter and the softest of lenses, it’s transcended from camp reality show to bonafide phenomenon, TV gold to TV platinum. More than 100 drag queen contestants later, “Drag Race” has inspired countless careers, heaps of merchandise, umpteen catchphrases, a twice annual convention, and the undying scrutiny of a fiercely devoted fanbase. In other words: the series has become a franchise, and the power of a franchise is that it can guarantee an audience almost no matter what.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular” is maybe the biggest test of that undying faith yet. While initially advertised as a competitive Christmas pageant, the special quickly pulls a bait and switch, becoming both much sneakier and way less interesting than its festive first impression. Instead, it’s an hour-long commercial for RuPaul’s Christmas albums (“Christmas Party,” now available on iTunes!) wrapped in an aggressively cheerful bow that hopes to distract its audience from the fact that the wit and spontaneity that usually makes “Drag Race” so fun is nowhere in sight. 

This bland makeover is an especially impressive feat given how much sheer charisma is onscreen at any given time. The “Holi-Slay Spectacular” features some of the best and wittiest “Drag Race” contestants that have ever been on the show, including Latrice Royale, Trixie Mattel, Jasmine Masters, and Shangela (fresh off a breakout turn in a little movie called “A Star is Born”). The fun of a one-off special like this is that, much like the “All Star” seasons, it can bring together a group of outstanding personalities from throughout the show’s run to bounce off each other. This group, a few of whom will be back together on “All Stars 4” in just a week, was a particularly promising one.

But the “Holi-Slay Spectacular” is so concerned with reading its cue cards and squeezing in every ounce of album promo it can that it barely has any room left for the queens to do much more than lipsync to RuPaul. The show’s sketches have always been one of its weakest elements — the contestants are almost always funnier off the cuff than the material they’re given — and the “Holi-Slay Spectacular” is basically just one after another, scored to the generic pumping beats of RuPaul’s new Christmas oeuvre. (Which, in the spirit of reviewing the material I got: the catchiest song is “Get To You (For Christmas),” the blandest is “My Favorite Holiday,” and the one that will lodge itself into your brain whether you like it or not is “Hey Sis, It’s Christmas.”)

The only part of the hour that feels like true “Drag Race” is when the queens make their pithy entrances, spitting friendly fire at each other. Everything else, from the challenges to the banter between makeup applications to the final “climactic” lip syncs (all RuPaul Christmas songs, of course), is scripted to death. And just in case you managed to get invested in who might get crowned Christmas Queen, the special shrugs it off by crowning everyone Christmas Queen. (It’s more than a little depressing when Shangela, who’s competed on the show more than anyone and was frankly robbed of an “All Stars 2” victory, jokes that she “finally won!”) Even a late-breaking lip sync between RuPaul and trusty right-hand woman Michelle Visage loses any spark of fun it had when it cuts away to the queens oohing and aahing at unconvincing, twerking body doubles. It’s admirably silly, but like most everything else, not nearly as funny as the special loudly insists that it is. 

Once upon a time, Trixie got dragged on “All Stars 3” for doing an impression of RuPaul that was essentially just repeating “buy my album, now available on iTunes” over and over again. It wasn’t a good impression, but if the “Holi-Slay Spectacular” is anything to go by, it wasn’t exactly inaccurate, either.

TV Review: 'RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular'

More TV

  • Apple Reveals New TV Streaming Service

    Apple Reveals New TV Streaming Service

    Apple on Monday unveiled plans for its long-anticipated streaming TV service. Sharing a stage with top talent including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, Viola Davis, and Kumail Nanjiani, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple TV+, the new platform for original television programming. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female [...]

  • La Liga Launches LaLigaSportTV OTT Streaming

    Spain’s La Liga Launches Pioneering OTT Service to Promote Spanish Sports Federations

    Spain’s top Soccer league, La Liga, has unveiled a new OTT service, LaLigaSportsTV. The service provides audiences with free coverage of major and minor Spanish sports content streamed directly to their personal devices. It looks set to be the first such service offered by a major European league, and of singular scope and objectives. LaLigaSportsTV [...]

  • Veep Season 6

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of March 25, 2019: 'Veep' Final Season, 'Barry' Season 2

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Veep” launches into its final season, and “Barry” season 2 debuts, both on [...]

  • Mandy Moore Walk of Fame Honor

    'This Is Us' Star Mandy Moore on Why She Is 'Operating at My Best Now'

    “This Is Us” star Mandy Moore successfully transitioned from a teenage pop star to an adult who juggles singing, acting and, soon enough, producing professionally. On March 25 she is being celebrated for her achievements with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honor she calls “tremendously humbling.” “I feel like I’m operating [...]

  • Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Jon Huertas,

    ‘This Is Us’ Creator Teases Final Moments of Season 3 Finale

    The final moments of the “This Is Us” Season 3 finale were so secretive, that series stars Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson received redacted scripts. Justin Hartley said when he found out the last moments, he told himself, “Oh f—, they did it to me again.” Brown, Watson and Hartley joined other cast [...]

  • Apple Event: How to Watch Live-Stream

    How to Live-Stream Today's Apple Event

    Monday is the coming-out party for Apple’s Hollywood ambitions: After years of trademark secrecy about its plans to stream into video entertainment, the tech giant is set to pull back the curtain at a media event. The live program kicks off at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET, on Monday, March 25, from the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content