Ah, but they wouldn't be the BOSTON POPS, would they? Never mind that this wasn't really the "Boston Pops" in any particularly meaningful sense (no strings!), or that a conductor isn't really needed to lead a small ensemble of professionals through this song, or that THE BOSTON POPS can be used not just to describe the BSO players who fill out most of the primary roster, but also any number of high-quality freelance players in the area. (And Shaughnessy might be surprised to know that Los Angeles has a few high-quality freelance musicians.) The truth is, Lockhart wasn't really needed at all to conduct, he was there to define this little group as THE POPS. He was, to put it simply, a walking and gesticulating brand name label (like a Keebler elf, or Tony the Tiger), there to make us all feel good that Boston has a well-known pops orchestra. One might further suggest that the Boston Pops exists largely to give people a "high art" labeled experience without really having to confront "high art." For example, the most high-profile Pops event is the annual 4th of July concert at which the second-tier Esplanade orchestra spends much of the evening providing a virtually superfluous backing track to some famous pop star.
The all-time silliest example was the 2002 Super Bowl for which the entire Pops orchestra was flown down to New Orleans to "play," except that they were just doing the symphonic equivalent of lip-synching, everything having been prerecorded. However, it obviously meant something to people to have the Pops there, representing themselves. They weren't there to play, they were there to be there, and the same is really true of the group from last night, even though they did happen to play. It's all about the name brand. So, although Lockhart's overly elaborate conducting gestures weren't really needed by the players, they did make sense as a way of reinforcing the name brand - people want to see that this guy's got some real conducting chops. He was conducting much more for the national audience than for his Pops stars.
But the truth is that the "name brand" phenomenon is pervasive in the way just about any kind of music, classical or pop, is received. There are all sorts of reasons to wonder why "new music" can't seem to get a legitimate foothold in the affections of concert-goers, but surely names are a big part of it. I teach at a small liberal arts school, and yet our annual student composer concerts always include several really well-written and interesting pieces; it logically follows that there are thousands of talented composers out there, able to turn out worthwhile music of just about any shape or size, but how do you compete with the name brands of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, etc? By no means am I saying that those composers just get by on name recognition, but I suspect if the average audience member doesn't like or is bored by a Beethoven symphony, the listener will tend towards blaming himself/herself. If the same listener doesn't like or is bored by the music of [INSERT NAME HERE], it's much more natural to put the blame on [RE-INSERT SAME NAME HERE]. This imaginary listener is thus much more likely to give Beethoven a second chance.
This isn't an entirely bad thing, by the way. In fact, it's just a natural part of how culture works in general, but that's a topic for another day.