Just like the other Charlie Brown specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been with me pretty much from the time I became cognizant of moving images on a screen. And it’s always nice to revisit it, even with increasingly-jaded adult eyes. These are the eyes I used when I watched the DVD my mom gave me a few years back. Here are some observations:
BEFORE WE BEGIN: The previews on the DVD are longer than Christmas vacation from school and I cannot fast-forward past them. (Worse, I’ve got them all memorized and you don’t have to sell me on seeing The Wizard of Oz. I watched it approximately seven thousand times when I was a kid.) So, I’m left to stare at my Christmas tree and contemplate a few things about the holiday season.
While this might sound hypocritical because I make my living online, I’m coming to the conclusion that the internet is ruining the holiday season. Why I would ever think a breeding ground for mean-spiritedness would NOT take aim at a holiday based on peace, love and innocence is beyond me. Maybe I’m not as cynical as I think. Regardless, the holidays bring out the worst in people. Particularly in an age where so many think that simply because they have an opinion, said opinion is worth listening to. (Again, I know I make my living stating my opinion on the internet. You’re just going to have to bear with me.)
Now, we’re all going to have differing opinions on the holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you might be one of those people who say, “Charlie Brown? F**k. I hate that show.” (Although, why the hell have you ventured this far into the article? Is your life really that empty? Wait. I mean, HEY, welcome to the column! Good to have you here!) Where you lose me, though, is this belief that we have to not only dislike something, we have to kill it for those who do. Don’t like the movie Love Actually? That’s okay. But why post articles like, “50 Reasons Love Actually Sucks and You’re a Moron for Enjoying It”? Don’t like “Wonderful Christmas” or “Last Christmas” or “Little Drummer Boy”? That’s okay. Just turn off the radio or don’t include them on your Christmas playlist. Why the need to spew vitriol at every opportunity on every platform available? Why ruin it for those who DO? Is that really the spirit of the season?
That said, if you like the song “Christmas Shoes”, f**k you. You’re on your own.
Hey, the show is starting. (Okay, same rules as It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. The times listed are just what I imagine the times to be. Don’t take them, or anything else in this blog, seriously.)
12/22, 10:00 am
-I’m watching the show alone this year. When friends DO join me for my annual viewing, it’s also my annual opportunity to remind them that when this special first aired: 1) The Charlie-Brown-Gets-Buggy-Whipped-Into-A-Tree-While-Skating sequence also had a shot of Linus getting thrown over a Coca-Cola billboard and 2) When the kids are throwing snowballs to knock a can off a fence, the can in question was originally a Coca-Cola can. Yes, Virginia, a special decrying the commercialization of Christmas was rife with product placement. Sorry.
-Charlie Brown spends his first several lines talking about how Christmas has lost all meaning to him. Apparently, like my father, he came out of the womb a 55 year old man.
-I’ve always wondered where, exactly, the Charlie Brown gang lived that they could be in shirt sleeves at Thanksgiving and have two feet of snow on the ground by Christmas? I’m guessing Charles Schulz wasn’t much interested in continuity (as much as, y’know, making a buck).
12/23 11:00 am
-This gets lost on us now, but this was the very first Charlie Brown special. Look at Charlie Brown in the early portion of this show. His every line is depressed and/or sarcastic. And for millions, this was the FIRST image they had of Charlie Brown. And yet the character still caught on. We are nothing if not self-hating.
-Snoopy eating bones. Ew.
-The kids are catching snowflakes on their tongues. Must be why they all got hooked to cocaine later in life. (They did, too. Yes, they did. I’m not even going to argue this with you.)
-LUCY: Maybe you have panophobia. Do you think you have panophobia?
CHARLIE BROWN: What’s that?
LUCY: The fear of everything.
CHARLIE BROWN: (pause, then:) THAT’S IT!!!
Actually, it’s pretty clear Charlie Brown has Tourette’s Syndrome.
–The Doctor is REAL IN. I once asked my mom what that joke meant. She said it was a Sixties thing. And it wasn’t all that funny then.
-LUCY: We even have a Christmas Queen.
CHARLIE BROWN: Who is it?
LUCY: J. Edgar Hoover.
-Sally’s clearly-taped-together dialogue inspired a generation of sampling record producers and cops looking to doctor evidence.
-“All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” And thus the Reagan Revolution is born.
12/23 11:30 am
-Why would Charlie Brown distract his actors by using a bunch of hand signals? Maybe we have to face it: Charlie Brown was a crappy director.
–CHARLIE BROWN: Shermie, you get to be a shepherd.
SHERMIE: Every year it’s the same thing. I’m always a shepherd. Eh? Eh? Great. I get one line in this thing and it sucks.
–That said, Shermie doing The Zombie is my favorite part of the dance sequence.
-Why would you need a penguin in the Christmas play? Lucy got what she had coming to her.
-Charlie Brown asks for some mood music. Schroeder thinks about it a second then swings right into Linus and Lucy. The lesson? Schroeder’s a d**k.
–When Charlie Brown slams down the megaphone, it makes a honking sound. A megaphone wouldn’t make that sound, so I’m assuming Charlie Brown cut one and Charles Schulz got away with the first fart joke in TV history.
-This whole Christmas play is like Heaven’s Gate in miniature.
-So, Charlie Brown’s searching for the true meaning of Christmas. He gets Nebuchadnezzar, Solomon and Babylon and, through all of this, he whiffed on The Gospel of Luke? I’d think Charlie Brown is Jewish, but why would he be looking for the true meaning of CHRISTMAS? So much to unpack here…
-LUCY: You do think I’m beautiful, don’t you? You didn’t answer right away. I know when I’ve been insulted! I know when I’ve been insulted.
Lucy prepared me for nearly every girlfriend I’ve ever had.
-Lucy tells Charlie Brown that Christmas is run by a big Eastern syndicate. In case you’re wondering where the Trump family fortune came from…
-You realize that when they were auditioning the kids for voice work, the producers had to look for kids who could sound like complete a**holes? That had to be a fun process.
12/23 4:00 pm
-On a positive note, Snoopy is awesome through this whole thing. Him getting caught dancing on the piano and slinking out of the room will never cease to be funny.
-At various points, Schroeder plays Jingle Bells on a piano, a harpsichord and an organ and yet he plays the same instrument the whole time. What strange witchcraft is this?
–Linus reciting the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke nearly kept CBS from airing the show because of concerns over religious content. I can only assume Schulz responded: “You’re worried about religious content…in a CHRISTMAS special?”
-LINUS: Lights please. (Lights dim) And there were in that same country shepherds abiding in the field–
LUCY: Who’s in the light booth?
LINUS: Keeping watch over their flock by night.
SHERMIE: I don’t think there’s anybody up there.
LINUS: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them–
LUCY: Then who hit the lights?
LINUS: And the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
VIOLET: I don’t know!
LINUS: And they were sore afraid.
LUCY: Let’s get out of here!
(Scrambling, screaming, everyone running for the exits.)
-All that said, Linus reciting from Luke 2 still steals the show.
-LINUS: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
(Charlie Brown smiles triumphantly. Picks up the little tree. Uses it to beat the living s**t out of the other kids.)
12/23 6:00 pm
-Wouldn’t you think Charlie Brown would worry less about the lights-and-display contest and be more impressed that he’s got a dog that can decorate his own house?
-By the way, this whole special? No Peppermint Patty. No Woodstock. No problem.
-Charlie Brown hangs one ornament on the tree. It bends under the weight. He claps a hand to his head and says, “I’ve killed it.” Then he walks away in despair. It’s that kind of fighting spirit that’s gotten him where he is today.
-Loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo (deep breath), Loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo…
-(Charlie Brown looks at the little tree and rubs his eyes in shock).
LINUS: Yeah, you might have pulled this off if you hung around an extra five seconds, ya moron.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN!!! (Loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo (deep breath), Loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo, loo…)