Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of creator Charles M. Schulz's first animated television special with the Peanuts Gang. It's the longest running cartoon special in history.
Find our more and watch the full 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' special after the jump!
I'll say right up front that I am a huge Charles Schulz fan. I think Peanuts is one of the most important things in the history of pop culture (not just comics, but in all of pop culture - film, literature, TV, music and art). It's the type of comic that's entertaining and fun for all of the obvious reasons but something that can also show you a little bit about how to live your life too. I mean, who doesn't like Snoopy or A Charlie Brown Christmas?
So I've been a little antsy about a new biography of Schulz that is coming out next week, Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, by David Michaelis. It's a bio that supposedly gives a fuller picture of Schulz, including the sad, unhappy parts of his life. Now I see that I'm not the only one who is a little antsy about the book and a new American Masters that will profile Schulz too.
And don't think that this is just Zach Braff, John C. McGinley and company doing a literal reading of the Charlie Brown script; it's more like a Scrubs episode, complete with flashbacks, girl names, and penis jokes. Even the characters are the same. Except here, JD looks like Chuck, Dr. Cox looks like Linus, Carla looks like Lucy, etc. (And there's even a Cox Rant (tm) or two in there, in places you wouldn't expect). I'll let you be surprised at where the other voices pop up.
The video was made during season three for a cast Christmas party. It's very funny and definitely worth a look.
Just like last year, ABC is airing A Charlie Brown Christmas twice this year. If you missed it when it aired late last month, you can catch it again on ABC on Sunday, December 17 at 7 pm. I recorded the special when it aired in November but haven't yet gotten around to watching it. When I do finally get time to sit and watch it, I'll do my usual ritual of dousing the lights, unplugging the phone and immersing myself in the special as I've done every year since I was a kid. I could purchase the DVD, but I have no interest in that. I like keeping this special tied to the holiday season, it's like a gift I get to unwrap and enjoy at the end of every year. I only wish ABC had also re-aired It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, since my local station moved it to 3 am so they could air some insipid midterm election debate.
I've been a great admirer of Charles Schulz and Peanuts for most of my life. The simplistic drawings, complex characters, not to mention the profound sadness and unrequited love that propelled the strip drew me in as a youngster and remain affecting even today. The existential humor of the strip, the core of which was Charlie Brown's Sisyphusian existence, also expanded to the early television specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, which turns 40 this year. I make a point of watching the show every year, and can become quite agitated if I miss it. While I still admire other classics like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives' soothing, grandfatherly voice is one of those harbingers of Christmas I always look forward to) I will run several red lights and cause massive traffic accidents just to make it home in time to see A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's easy to forget after forty years just how groundbreaking the show was. When it was conceived, many thought an animated Christmas special with religious overtones centering on a chronically depressed child would fail, but the naysayers were proven wrong, and what might have been a gaudy, diluted version of the strip became an animated study in spirituality and human compassion that, years later, can still warm the heart of a secular person such as myself.
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