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.