Holiday Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas
It goes without saying that Peanuts have been an icon of entertainment for over half a century. Considering that the creation of Charles M. Schulz has been on everything from the big screen to greeting cards, it almost seems unbelievable than anyone would doubts Snoopy and the gang would be successful beyond the comic strip. But in the 1960’s, despite the enormous success of the strip at the height of its popularity, there was little faith that Peanuts could be brought to television. But producer Lee Mendelson believed in Shulz’s vision of a Christmas special so much, that in 1965 we got A Charlie Brown Christmas, which over the years has become a hallowed institution of the holiday season.
Suffering with a bout of holiday depression Charlie Brown is lured into the role of directing the local Christmas play in the hopes of igniting the Christmas spirit. Naturally with him being Charlie Brown, none of the other kids listen to him. He and Linus hope a proper Christmas tree will brighten the mood. But the famously scrawny tree they find is roundly mocked by everyone driving the long-suffering kid to his breaking point. Linus with his trusty blanket restore order by calmly reminding everyone of the true reason behind Christmas. This inspires the others to finally rally behind Charlie Brown to celebrate the season.
As mentioned previously networks and advertisers were not too keen in supporting the leap from newspaper to TV screens. Especially once Charles Schulz began to make demands that Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Pig-Pen and the rest of the crew be voiced by actual children. Not only that but that the musical score would be jazz based. On top of all of this, Schulz was adamant that the special espouse the Biblical message about the holiday’s origin. When Coca-Cola finally agreed to back the project, Schulz had to finish the script in a rush which is why A Charlie Brow Christmas is notoriously short and barebones. That being said, we can now say safely fifty years later that these are all major reasons that this special has endeared itself to generations of fans.
The heart and the magic which had made Peanuts such a success on paper translated perfectly onto the screen. All of the characters are incredibly charming and endearing, especially the kid who will never kick a Lucy-held football Charlie Brown. Countless people have written over the years about him as the ultimate underdog. Nothing ever goes his way, Lucy constantly takes advantage of him, the Little Red-Haired Girl never notices him, every time he pitches a baseball it not only gets hit but also knocks his clothes off. Despite all of this he perseveres giving fans a protagonist they can happily latch onto a cheer on. He proves to be the perfect window through which to view the Christmas season as we can all relate to his glum attitude about the season. We have all felt the brunt of the worst aspects of Christmas at some point and need to find a way to get that spark back. This makes the happy ending feel resonate that much more with viewers.
Earlier this year Apple inspired a mob to gather torches and pitchforks when they announced that for the A Charlie Brown Christmas was exclusive to their streaming service nobody wants. This meant for the first time in 55 years this sacred Christmas tradition would not be on free television. When you can unite the entire internet against you, you should know you screwed up. As a response Apple allowed the special to air on PBS for the 2020 Christmas season. The fact that no matter how much the world has changed since 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas still means so much to so many people, should be proof of its power. I personally, have watched it every year for the past 34 years of my life and every year I get choked up as absolutely earnest Linus delivers his heartfelt recitation of the second chapter of Luke. He does not come off preachy or condemning, but simply tells the story of an infant who was to bring peace and love to the entire world. It proves to be the perfect centerpiece of the entire story.
Even when the prospect of a Peanuts Christmas special seemed like a longshot, Charles M. Schulz never lost faith in his creation. In the end that faith has been rewarded a million times over. Through multiple generations this little half hour special as served as essential viewing once December rolls around. Considering the themes and message of A Charlie Brown Christmas are universal and are still just as important today as ever, I do not see it ever losing its appeal.