Enjoying the melancholy undercurrent of Charlie Brown television specials

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/12/20/enjoying-the-melancholy-underc.html


Charles Schulz is long dead. Let’s stop sending more money to his estate. I’m unhappy to see his work being commercialized everywhere. My local newspaper continues to print the “classic Peanuts”, wasting paper space that could be opened to a newer talent, so I’ll keep griping whenever I see it.

ETA: This is not to say that the music of Vince Guaraldi isn’t wonderful. That’s still enjoyable to listen to.


The Charlie Brown Christmas album is still one of my favs to play at xmas - or anytime. Vince Guaraldi was brilliant.


Jack and the beanstalk got divorced?


The grown-up voices alone are worth the price of the boxed set.

The Charlie Brown special that I know most closely (one of my kids is a cancer survivor) is called “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?” It’s about a girl who is diagnosed with leukemia, and undergoes all sorts of hospitalization and treatments. Talk about melancholy!


The Big Three holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving are the essential ones. Honourable mention goes to the Easter Special and, strangely, the Arbor Day one. The Easter one lacks the melancholy mood, but it has some moments (Woodstock’s birdhouse 70s decor). The Arbor Day special evokes the earlier ones in tone but can’t really live up to them, because, frankly, it’s about Arbor Day and I had no idea what that was as a kid. All the rest are interesting, historical curiosities, most worth viewing once. Anything made after Vince Guaraldi’s death in 1975 are not worth your time (and once they get into the 80s, they’re quite terrible).

Since I’m Canadian, before video/DVDs/downloading I had to wait a month for the Thanksgiving special to play out of sequence. And being on basic network TV, I saw each special exactly once each year, twice if a Canadian network broadcast it at a different time than CBS (which they rarely did).


Today I was walking across a parking lot when a small plane flew overhead, surprisingly low and surprisingly fast. I looked up after it and realized it was a crimson biplane - so naturally I raised my fist and yelled “Curses, Red Baron!”

I got some funny looks; apparently not everybody grew up on Peanuts


I’ve linked to Dorkly’s piece on “It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas” before, but it’s probably worth looking at again.

“What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?” featuring the battlefields of France is also pretty grim.

I have a particular fondness for “Snoopy: The Musical” and I think it’s a little unfortunate that production companies seem to continually pass it up in favor of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” – which does have its entertaining bits, but it’s been done.

It occurs to me that I’ve never tried to look up if any of the soundtrack from “It’s Magic, Charlie Brown” ever made it to CD. Composed by Ed Bogas, apparently? I do have the Marsalis album and approve of it strongly.

@RichardKaufman - this link is kaput; you need the .html on the end.


Reported to the higher ups and hoping for a repair soon. Thanks for the note!

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They did, actually. Broke Bud Abbott’s heart.


Not so much melancholy, as really menacing is this rendition of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” by Nicolas Delort


Vince Guaraldi; cast your fate to the wind is where it all started for me, and he’s been our go to Christmas music for decades.


I’m a bit younger, so while I can’t remember a time before Charlie Btown’s Christmas and Rudolph and the Grinch, I can’t remember seeing them the first time. Christmas 1964 we were in Denmark, and I’m not even sure if the specials came to Canada in tandem with the US or if we had to wait a year.

I do connect Charlie Brown with antiseptic, one year I banged my head on a sharp corner and had to get stitches, and my memory, maybe false, connected that to Charlie Brown’s Christmas, so maybe they happened the same night.

Don’t forget, there were also movies. Around 1969 or 70, one, maybe the first, was released, I can’t remember if it was summer or Christmas, some school holiday, and since the neighborhood theater was was a couple of blocks away, I went with my sisters. And so did a bunch of other kids from school, a very different situation from today. No more more neighborhood theatres, and fewer kids likely to attend without an adult.

One could even get a model of Snoopy and his airplane around 1970, complete with battery operated propeller. No glue needed, the pieces snapped together.

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Snoopy was quite the NASA nerd in the 60’s “The Beagle has Landed”

and you can still find some new Snoopy NASA stuff…


Your post struck a nerve with me, parents divorced at the same age, and I thought I was the only one with a wiped memory. Thanks for sharing.


Vulture link fixed.


So very true. Snoopy: The Musical is probably my favorite Peanuts special, and I still watch/listen to it on a regular basis. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should definitely hunt it down. (Or, y’know, just look it up on YouTube)


Except that Linus doesn’t “pray” to the Great Pumpkin any more than other children pray to Santa Claus.

My only real problem with Linus’ attitude in A Charlie Brown Christmas is at the end, when the children discover the bent-over tree and Linus says “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.” Then why the hell didn’t he say anything in defense of Charlie Brown when the rest of the kids were bullying him?

And Charlie Brown is seriously bullied by almost all the kids in his neighbourhood, plus a lot of the adults: why is he singled out to receive rocks on Halloween, in some sort of apparently coordinated effort by the neighbourhood adults to be really, really mean to one little boy? And where the hell are his parents in all this?


And from its date of 1990, it beats Tom Batiuk’s turning of cheerful high school comic strip Funky Winkerbean into a darker strip where cancer, suicide, and veterans with PTSD are commonplace…


There’s your problem. His preferred ride was a triplane.
Seriously, though, yours WAS the proper response.