December 04, 2005
Forty years of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Nice little piece on the fortieth anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas and its enduring appeal. Seems to me, though, that the pop culture historians have overlooked a simple and obvious part of the show's draw:

No doubt the humor in the admittedly sluggish storyline and the peculiarities of Schulz's characters are big factors in the show's continued popularity, said Derrick Bang, the entertainment editor of the Davis Enterprise in California and author of three Peanuts-related books. His latest, It's Only a Game, is a collection of single-panel cartoons by Schulz from the 1950s.

Scenes from the show and Peanuts gags are cultural mainstays: Lucy in the psychiatry booth, Sally radiating hearts for Linus, Lucy trying desperately to get Schroeder to notice her noticing him.

"I watch the show every year and still chuckle when Charlie Brown and Linus are on the Christmas tree lot," Bang said. "They rap on the aluminum Christmas tree and it goes, 'clunk, clunk.' It's a sociological statement people can relate to."

The music undeniably became a draw, Bang said, and the CD sells extremely well every year. [Vince] Guaraldi, who died at 47 in 1976, was a genius at the instrumental hook, he said.

And Bang agreed with [executive producer Lee] Mendelson that the Linus spotlight scene clinched it. Bang said the comic strip had gentle theologic content but was never preachy. In the Christmas special, too, Schulz wasn't sermonizing.

"That was the meat," Bang said. "I truly believe the special was a convergence of many happy events."

Two words: Snoopy Dance! (warning: music) I mean, come on. Is there anybody who's seen this show who wouldn't say that the scene where everyone dances to the song "Linus and Lucy" isn't the most memorable? It was one of the things that bonded Xander and Willow, for goodness' sakes. How can you not even mention it?

Anyway. I always looked forward to A Charlie Brown Christmas when I was a kid, and I still love it today. I hope Olivia watches it with her kids on its 80th anniversary. Along with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it's the best one out there.

(Side note: Did anyone else see the (as far as I know) one-time airing of Berke Breathed's Christmas special A Wish for Wings That Work in 1991? I videotaped it at the time, loaned the tape to someone, and never got it back, which annoys me every year that it doesn't get rerun. There's also a book version of this, which I own, but it's totally different than the show. I'd love to see this special again.)

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2005 to TV and movies | TrackBack

I knew one of my neighbors would be a friend for life when we were out shopping the day after Thanksgiving a couple years ago and we both started doing the little head bop dance to "Linus and Lucy".

I think I still have "A Wish for Wings That Work" on videotape. When we get back home from Oregon, I'll try to remember to check. I'd be happy to loan it to you if I still have it.

Posted by: Sue on December 5, 2005 9:20 AM