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.