He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown

November 21, 2006

I rushed home from the studio last evening to watch the annual screening of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on ABC. Peanuts shows are a part of my personal tradition, and I always try to set aside time to watch them when they air. Sure, I could simply buy the videos and watch them when I want, but there’s something about the cult of television and the seasonal tradition that on-demand video can’t replicate.

The Thanksgiving special is not at the top of my list of Peanuts specials, but still it’s fun to watch. My favorite part is the scene at the dinner table after Charlie Brown has walked away, dejected from being scolded by Peppermint Patty for preparing such a sorry excuse for dinner (popcorn, toast, jelly beans). “What blockhead would cook a meal like this for Thanksgiving!?” she shouts. Marcie gives Peppermint Patty pause when she points out that Patty was not invited to dinner by Charles, but in fact invited herself and all her friends. Realizing that she’d been too hard on Chuck, Patty asks Marcie to go find him and patch things up for her. Marcie tries to squirm out of the task. During this exchange, Marcie turns around to look into the “camera” a couple times, as if to soliloquize, “Can you believe she’s asking me to do this?” but finally concedes and agrees to talk with Charlie. The scene is classic Peanuts. Subtle, but hilarious.

Last evening, the Thanksgiving episode from 1973 was followed by the premier of He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown, a project that Schulz was working on prior to his death. The story and presentation didn’t quite seem to capture the sensibilities of Schulz’ previous work, but it was an entertaining program nonetheless and even caused me to laugh out loud a couple times, something the old shows rarely do any more. Initially I was disturbed that, for the first time in the 50-plus year history of Peanuts, Charlie Brown actually wins at something. Such a story line seems so out of character, so un-Schulzesque. Even though the program has the same producers as the old episodes, I thought that surely they had taken liberties with the script that Schulz never would have taken. But apparently this project was in-progress before Schulz passed away in 2000, and so we can assume the story line is true to the way Schulz wanted it.

Wow, Charlie Brown a winner. The mind reels.

For more about all the Peanuts episodes, visit this link, and for an interview of Charles Schulz, check out Charles Schulz, ‘The Complete Peanuts’ Fresh Air from WHYY, May 21, 2004.

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