There are two types of Christmas specials: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and everything else. I rarely get to catch it when it comes on TV these days, but fortunately I now own it on DVD and we watched it after we had Christmas Part I with Jim yesterday morning. A few years back, I watched the special online and wrote a running commentary on the greatest Christmas special ever.
0:04 - The opening strains of “Christmastime is Here”. The album A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guraldi Trio: Greatest Holiday Album of All Time. But that’s just my opinion.
0:54 - Charlie Brown and Linus are at the wall where they stand and talk about life. Everyone needs a wall like this. Chuck is bummed because he doesn’t feel the way he’s supposed to feel at Christmas. I feel you brother.
1:30 - “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” This only works if someone has a special kind of name. You can’t say, “Of all the Matt Jones in the world, you’re the Matt Jonesiest” but you can definitely say, “Of all the Tiger Woods in the world, you’re the Tiger Woodsiest”. [Note: that joke this year would have been “Of all the Charlie Sheens in the world, you’re the Charlie Sheeniest.”]
2:07 - Snoopy skating in a way that even corrupt Russian judges would be impressed. All while “Christmastime is Here” is sung in the background. I really wish that people would stop trying to cover this song, the haunting wistfulness just can’t be duplicated.
2:29 - No one sent Charlie Brown a Christmas card in the mail. Is it common anywhere for kids to receive cards in the mail? That never happened to me. Or are we just accepting the fact that this is a town made up entirely of children?
3:32 - Lucy definitely grew up to swindle people via a Ponzi scheme.
4:16 - “Climbacaphobia” is undoubtedly my favorite phobia in Lucy’s list.
5:08 - Let’s pick an inexperienced kid with little holiday spirit to direct our Christmas play. Brilliant!
6:10 - We’ll touch on this now because more important things happen later. We later learn that Snoopy wins the Holiday Lights contest. And while the display is fine and all, was this really the best in the neighborhood or did he get bonus points for being a dog?
6:19 - Kids dancing around. Snoopy on guitar. Pigpen rocking it out with the upright bass. Love it.
7:13 - For a kid with no directing experience, Chuck does have the stage direction lingo down pretty well.
7:38 - The kids start dancing again while Charlie Brown gives a pep talk. Meanwhile we get a shot of Linus dancing with Sally. Sally has a crush on Linus, but Linus always seems to deflect these affections. Yet we’ve got the two of them dancing together here. Is he leading her on? Does he secretly like Sally but feels it is inappropriate because she’s his best friend’s little sister? These are the things you notice when you start dissecting a Christmas special you’ve seen all your life.
8:01 - You can’t help but feel happy when you hear “Linus and Lucy” (well, unless you’re Charlie Brown). Seriously, try it. It’s a musical pick-me-up.
10:19 - Some of the Christmas Pageant Cast of Characters mentioned: the innkeeper’s wife, the innkeeper, shepherds, sheep, cow, penguin, shepherd’s wife, and the Christmas Queen (which might be how Lucy refers to Mary, but I digress). Why don’t we see more nativity scenes with penguins?
10:54 - Charlie Brown tries to get Frida to work with Pigpen by speaking of the historical relevance of his dust cloud; a pretty good stab at trying to bring things together.
11:29 - Linus says, “Good grief” in response to Sally’s floaty hearts. Just saying.
12:11 - Lucy asks Chuck if he thinks she’s beautiful. What happens next is something that has happened to nearly every guy. This is why we respond to female questions sometimes seemingly without thinking. We’re worried if we wait a split second then a girl is going to go “Lucy” on us.
12:33 - Third time a dance party breaks out since Chuck came in to direct. No respect.
13:07 - No Lucy, Valentine’s Day is a racquet run by an Eastern syndicate (now is probably a good time to throw in that I love my wife and celebrating Valentine’s Day with her).
13:20 - How long was the Aluminum Christmas Tree Era? And who thought this was a good idea? Was it a result of the Cold War? Could your tree protect you from nuclear fallout?
13:28 - Linus was dressed to go before Chuck said he was taking him. The kid is a prophet.
13:38 - “Yeah, do something right for a change Charlie Brown.” Chuck would definitely been a victim of cyber bullying if he grew up during these times.
14:24 - We see our little Christmas tree for the first time. Three branches.
15:00 - It’s becoming apparent this online version is shortened from the original special. Earlier there’s supposed to be a moment where the kids are throwing snowballs at a can on a fence (a Coke can in the original special). And then there’s Lucy and Schroeder’s exchange about Christmas music and Beethoven. Both missing from the online version.
15:08 - Schroeder in his purple shirt playing the piano. You just know Schroeder grew up to be a Furman music major. And I bet he had to work extra hard to learn the “Thriller” dance for the marching band.
15:36 - Six branches.
15:41 - A PSA on bullying. These kids are horrible.
16:26 - Seven branches.
16:34 - “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
16:44 - Linus Van Pelt and the greatest moment in TV history. Not forceful. Not high and mighty. Simple, gentle, and full of love. A testimony to how we should all speak truth at Christmas. The fact that this is a beloved Christmas special even among the non-religious despite the nativity story being front and center speaks volumes about the way Linus tells the Christmas story.
17:52 - “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Amen, Linus, amen.
17:57 - We’re at seven branches, but we were back at three while Linus was reciting Luke.
18:03 - Whoa! Linus just teleported to where the rest of the group was.
18:59 - Six branches.
19:07 - Charlie Brown is skipping.
19:22 - Perhaps Chuck’s dismay at Snoopy’s victory was because there were better light displays.
19:32 - Five branches. The sixth branch vanished as Charlie Brown placed the tree on the ground.
19:43 - “I’ve killed it.” Obviously the local science teacher has failed their students in the area of botany. It’s not dead, Chuck. Take the ornament off and it’ll be okay. Please don’t let this be the straw that breaks your Christmas camel’s back.
19:48 - Christmas camel’s back broken. But you really can’t blame Chuck. When you’re told that you suck on a fairly regular basis, you start to believe it. It isn’t true, Charlie Brown. You’re awesome. Not as awesome as prophetic, scripture-quoting, teleporting Linus, but still awesome.
20:18 - Blanket + Love + Snoopy’s Decorations = Magic
20:22 - “Charlie Brown is a blockhead…” Sigh, Lucy just doesn’t get it.
20:32 - I like it when Pigpen takes a breath while oohing and his surrounding dust cloud billows up around him.
20:54 - Point of view animation. Very cutting edge for the 60s.
20:58 - “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!”
21:00 - We should always sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” like the Peanuts gang; heads completely lifted in the air and mouths opening as wide as humanly possible. Childlike and worshipful; just what Christmas should be.
21:44 - The End. The animation may be a bit rough and the kids a bit rougher, but you just can’t top this special. The music, its realistic take on the holiday season, and the characters are great. And then Linus telling us what Christmas is all about just sends the special to a completely different level. It’s just wonderful.