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TV Preview: A Charlie Brown Christmas – Glad Tidings of Great Joy

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Tonight is the night for the digitally remastered, gala 40th anniversary presentation of the Charles M. Schulz “Peanuts” classic that the original network, CBS, thought too slow and religious, which was kind of the point. A Charlie Brown Christmas will be shown at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Naturally, it was a smash hit and has remained the most fresh and affecting of the animated Christmas shows. And that signature Vince Guaraldi bassline walking through one piano-based classic after another doesn’t hurt either.

Schultz dared to directly search for the meaning of Christmas amidst commercialized children (some gleefully, some reluctantly so) and innocence lost, most pointedly symbolized by a garish Christmas tree lot filled with neon-colored aluminum trees, stiffly reflecting both the searchlight glare and soulless artificiality of Christmas in mid-20th century America.

Charlie Brown — on a mission get a tree to decorate the set of the Christmas pageant he is directing, and despite dire warnings to not screw up — is drawn in spite of himself to a kindred spirit, an unimpressive lonely little natural tree pining away in the shadows of its overwrought metallic rivals.

Charlie and his tree meet with an initial response of disgust and rejection, but after Linus gives his legendary Biblical speech on the meaning of Christmas — derived straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak — the chastened kids rally round the sorry sapling, performing a transformative miracle worthy of the season.

Please see Tony Figueroa’s thoughful meditation on the show, and for an annotated listing of Holiday Season TV shows for the week, consult this schedule.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://journals.aol.com/vicl04/THESAVAGEQUIETSEPTEMBERSUN/ Victor Lana

    Eric,

    The Lanas are gearing up to watch this show in less than three minutes (even though we watched the DVD the other night), so I’ll be brief.

    For me, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without this show. I grew up on it and feel Schulz tapped the pulse of a generation.

    We didn’t want aluminum Christmas trees, that’s for sure.

    The music still sets my spririts flying when I hear it; I feel like Snoopy flying high in the sky on his doghouse.

    Speaking of doghouses, I best be off before I get in trouble.

    That’s what Christmas is all about, right?

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    I saw this for the first time ever last week, would you believe? i still get chills thinkin bout it, just a staggeringly beautiful, melancholic, off-beat slab of animation. i doubt i’ve ever seen a better christmas related animated program. Or animated program in general. truly beautiful, it was. great article, eric!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I don’t recall ever having seen this one, oddly. I’ve seen the Great Pumpkin one about 150 times, it seems. Your inspired take, EO, has piqued my interest now.

  • http://www.vespaquest.com Justene Adamec

    Ok, I have seen the first halfhour a lot. Where did the second half “Charlie Brown Christmas Tales” come from?

  • http://www.vespaquest.com Justene Adamec

    And there’s ANOTHER Charlie Brown Christmas Special Friday.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks guys! – we ended up having company for dinner that was still going on when the show came on, so Lily and I kind of slipped away and caught most of it.

    And “melancholy” is just the right word for much of it – it avoids obvious and easy sentimentality, and the emotional center, Linus’s recitation, is as quiet and ruminative as “emotional centers” get.

    Partly because people were there, the second show didn’t really hold our attention – I also found it distracting that the voices were different, but the second one is from the ’70s, I believe, so what do you expect?