I’ve watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (and quite a number of Peanuts specials) every year from about the time I could comprehend moving images on a screen up until the present day (absent, maybe, a few years in college when I couldn’t comprehend anything that didn’t involve beer and sex). If you watch a thing a few thousand times and literally grow up with it, you make a few observations. This year, I decided to share these observations as I watch the show on the DVD my mom gave me a few years back.
BEFORE WE BEGIN: the DVD forces me to play a whole series of previews, so I’ve got a few minutes to kill. While I wait, I mute the TV and watch You Tube. I stumble across the video for Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. A few random thoughts, just to get us in the mood.
-Who is Ray Parker Jr. in this video? He starts out as a ghost, haunts our heroine for most of the video, then he’s suddenly a Ghostbuster at the end. Is he a double-agent of some kind? Or is he a ghost who’s come back to life and is now dedicated to fighting his former allies? Who swayed him, the pretty girl or the Ghostbusters? Why do I get the feeling I put more thought into this than the guy who actually directed the video?
-All that aside, I love Ray Parker Jr. in this. Dude’s got a vibe that feels like he COULD have been one of the Ghostbusters. I’m amazed no one thought of that for the sequel. (Of course, people probably weren’t thinking much about Ray Parker Jr. by 1989, so…)
-The cameos in this video feature the most incredibly random group of celebrities. (Melissa Gilbert, Al Franken, Peter Falk, etc.) I have to assume the director told an intern: “Just run down to the commissary and round up anyone who’s willing to appear in a music video. I can’t pay them, but I got a mess of blow in my trailer, so…”
ALSO: Just as the DVD “play” menu comes up, my cat Lenny decides to bat my high school theater trophy off the makeshift mantel next to the TV; the same mantel he’s not supposed to be on in the first place. I do a baseball slide and break the trophy’s fall with my feet. I then angrily chase Lenny around the room. It’s a vexing feeling to pursue your cat with murderous intentions while “Linus and Lucy” plays in the background.
Okay, let’s get this thing started. (I’ve grouped the scenes by what I imagine to be their date and time. Don’t take them, or anything else in this blog, literally.)
10/29, 4:30 pm
-The bit of music that opens this special, and basically acts as the Peanuts’ them, is called Linus and Lucy. I assume this is because Linus and Lucy are featured in the first scene. But this isn’t the first special that used that song. The Lets All Dick Around dance scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas used it and that special predates this one. Did they just not name the song until later? Is there another usage that caused the song to be called Linus and Lucy? Or was this Vince Guaraldi’s plan all along? These are the thoughts you have when you’ve seen something approximately 3,647 times.
-Linus picks a random apple off the ground, takes one bite and tosses it in the trash. I can’t even unpack all the stuff wrong with that sequence.
-Apparently, Linus and Lucy live close to a pumpkin patch. Does that seem right? Has anyone ever seen a pumpkin patch in a town? (I mean, a real pumpkin patch, not a “the Lion’s Club is selling pumpkins in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly” pumpkin patch).
-Lucy grabs a knife to carve the pumpkin. What the hell is wrong with the parents in this household? “Sure, let’s give our violent, temperamental daughter access to the cutlery. I’m sure everything will work out just fine.” I mean, she chucks Snoopy across the room two scenes later. You don’t give this kind of person a weapon.
10/30 3:00 pm
-Linus F’s up Charlie Brown’s pile of leaves by diving in with a wet sucker. Anyone else notice that Linus is a bit of a dick in this special? There’s the whole food-wasting incident in the previous scene. The leaf diving here. Later, he’s going to turn into a religious zealot and a charlatan who doesn’t want to be held accountable for s**t. It’s a positively Trumpian performance.
-This is the first time the Lucy-pulling-away-the-football gag was used in one of the specials. Two observations. A) Based on her manipulation of the signed document, Lucy clearly grew up to be a lawyer; B) Here’s a fun game: every time Charlie Brown misses the football, just replace his yell by shouting, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU**!!!!!”
10/30 3:45 pm
-I have to assume Linus’ eventual disillusionment with the Great Pumpkin led him to be an atheist. All the signs are there. I think atheism is the big takeaway from It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
-Ah, there’s the dog-chucking I spoke of. Lucy is a horribly violent person.
-Some random girl just walks up to Linus and sayd, “You’re making a mistake! The Great Pumpkin’s a fake!” To which Linus should have responded: “Who are you and why the f**k are you in my house?”
-Seriously, I grew up in a small town and things were a little more relaxed. But we didn’t just wander into each other’s houses. What’s wrong with these little bastards?
-Little know fact*: Charles Schulz originally wanted to call the strip “Little bastards”.
(*- Might not be an actual fact.)
-Suddenly, Charlie Brown gets creepy religious and won’t let Linus talk to Sally about the Great Pumpkin. Not a good look on him, I have to say.
-Lucy’s on the cover of the TV Guide Lucy is looking at. A wonderfully meta moment. That I only noticed about two years ago.
-I suppose kids who watch this show now are wondering what TV Guide was. And what magazines are.
-Ah, one of the most memorable moments in the show: Charlie Brown gets an invitation to Violet’s Halloween Party and promptly breaks into a Hitler jig.
10/31 5:30 pm
-Why the hell does everyone’s costume involve bedsheets? Is there a textile mill nearby?
-Something I genuinely wondered as a kid: how could Charlie Brown put so many holes in the bedsheet without cutting off at least one finger? (Yeah, I was a weird kid.)
-Why does Charlie Brown give Snoopy a British salute? Is the WWI Flying Ace actually a limey? I have so many questions.
10/31 6:00 pm
-How exactly DOES one judge sincerity in a pumpkin patch? I’ll assume some big orange blowhard doesn’t occupy it.
-“If you try to hold my hand, I’ll slug you.” Wait, you just agreed to spend the night in a pumpkin patch with me and immediately you’re threatening violence? I think we should see other people.
10/31 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
-Seriously, who keeps rocks on hand to give to Trick-or-Treaters? Did the whole neighborhood just get together and decide, “Hey, you know Marv Brown’s kid? Charlie? Let’s f**k that kid over for Halloween.”
10/31 Snoopy Dream Sequence
-This whole thing starts with someone asking Charlie Brown what Snoopy’s up to. He answers the question then transitions into being the narrator for the dream sequence. I keep waiting for Lucy’s voice to break in and ask, “What the hell are you narrating, Rock Boy?”
-Given the freaky changes in color and the overly-dramatic soundscape, are we safe to assume this whole sequence takes place shortly after Snoopy dropped some peyote?
10/31 7:05 pm
-Violet: “Did the Great Pumpkin show up?” Fake laughter and then: “I don’t like myself very much.”
10/31 7:30 pm
-Wait, you needed Charlie Brown to model for the same basic jack o’lantern design we’ve been using for 200 years? Girls are the worst.
10/31 Snoopy Dream Sequence cont.
-And we continue Snoopy’s bad trip until he gets to the party. I’ll be honest: as much snark as I’ve thrown into this thing, Snoopy crawling through a window and going from the dream sequence to the party was my favorite part of the show when I was growing up. Still is.
10/31 8:00 pm
-LUCY: Come on, everybody, we’re going to bob for apples.
OFF-SCREEN KID: You should be good at this, Lucy. You’ve got the perfect mouth for it.
ME: That’s what she said!
(At this point, I realize I’m alone in the apartment and perpetually 13 years old.)
-Lucy freaks out when she grabs an apple in her mouth and emerges from the water to discover Snoopy’s got a lip-lock on the other end of the apple. “My lips have touched dog lips! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!” The lips were really the problem? The WHOLE DOG was in the water. He LITERALLY poisoned the waterhole.
-Snoopy howling during the sad song, then grabbing his mouth and looking around, embarrassed. This will never NOT be funny to me.
10/31 8:30 pm
-Based on the available evidence, Linus was not emotionally prepared to meet the Great Pumpkin.
-The most chilling part of Sally’s meltdown on Linus is how Linus doesn’t react at all. It’s like he’s used to being physically and mentally abused.
“Good grief, I said ‘if’. I meant, when he comes. I’m doomed. One slip like that can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. He’s a vengeful and a petty god.”
11/1 4:00 am
-Sure, I give Lucy a lot of grief here (and she deserves it). But she also deserves the Good Sibling Award for going out and getting Linus in the middle of the night. Safe to say if my brothers had found me passed out in a pumpkin patch, I would’ve woke up naked with permanent marker all over my face.
11/1 3:00 pm
-Of course, Linus is unrepentant about his misadventure. In fact, Charlie Brown’s attempts to comfort him result in a rant that ends the show. The rant fades down and is obscured by the end music, which is for the best because I’m pretty sure at one point, Linus shouts, “…and the blood of your children shall run in the street!”
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, CHARLIE BROWN!!!