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Good Grief! 'Charlie Brown Christmas' Almost Missed Its Chance to Become a TV Tradition
December 16, 2011  | By David Bianculli

We've gotten a lot of response to our coverage this month of ABC's treatment, and occasional mistreatment, of A Charlie Brown Christmas -- and we're not through yet. Want to hear how the special almost was killed by CBS the very year it premiered, way back in 1965?

Of course you do...


This story comes courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer and its TV critic, John Kiesewetter, a good journalist, and good guy, who just repeated his own vintage Peanuts story, the same trick I pulled just the other day.

John's, provocatively headlined You Blockhead! You Killed Charlie Brown!, is a well-reported story from 2000, in which he interviewed Lee Mendelson, producer of all Peanuts TV specials up to that time.

Meldelson told him some great stories -- about the music by Vince Guaraldi, the program's structure and content as dictated by Charles M. Schulz, and, most surprisingly, CBS's utter indifference to the animated special -- until it aired, and pulled more viewers than any TV show that week but the top-rated Western series Bonanza.

For Kiewsetter's full article, click HERE. It's a great read.

And if you want to buy the book mentioned in the article -- A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition -- you can buy a newer, 2005 edition of that book HERE.

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown...




Eileen said:

This is a perfect example of tv brass & advertisers underestimating the viewing public.

Charlie Brown & the Peanuts Gang are like the Muppets: just timeless and classic. There is something about them that just resonates with adults, as well as kids. It's like a trip back to your childhood when it was just a simpler way of life, and all things were as they should be.

Certain holiday viewing traditions shouldn't be tampered with: It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and, of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Thanks to the Peanuts Gang for all the happy holiday memories (and, Ralphie, don't shoot your eye out!).

[And don't forget Tiny Tim in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. God bless us, every one... with razzleberry dressing. - DB]

Comment posted on December 16, 2011 12:28 PM

Mac said:

No one wants to talk Peanuts? Well, since the commenters work for peanuts (I know, EVERYONE works here for peanuts, but, hey, be satisfied that we're all going to shell). I love to talk "Peanuts".
I'm a Baby Boomer, interested about all things Boomer. If there was a Boomer comic strip, "Peanuts" is it. Conceived in 1950, as was many a Boomer. By 1964, the Boomer generation, by definition, was out of the womb. Boomers were already silently ruling things (culture phenom like kiddie TV, hula hoops, expanded pro sports all benefited by a few more million eyeballs). How big? Well, my PhD. thesis would be: No Boomers=no Beatles. Lots of families glued to the TV (few other distractions). So a comic strip (still a viable source of entertainment), animated, was a no-brainer. "The Flintstones" proved that the animation didn't have to look Disney perfect to break the prime time barrier. Pop music not only included said Beatles but Mancini's Peter Gunn. TV Jazz had already opened doors. America rooting for underdogs goes to the Mom & apple pie equation, but surely the New York Mets' then-recent track record of fallability had proof in 1965 of Americans rooting for new losers.Throw a little psychoanalysis and religion to the mix. Coke kinda sensed this and the pocketbook was in the right place, if their corporate head wasn't. Add the fact that CBS (the Tiffany network was home to the imperfect, almost embarrassing "Beverly Hillbillies") didn't see it coming, and it's the perfect storm. A poorly animated story about losers suffering holiday depression, searching for redemption, looking and sounding like kids and set to a jazz trio? Well, it's entertainment for the whole darn nuclear family. Let's watch again...

[Methinks you have the makings of a book here, or at least a thesis. Well done -- and well said. - DB]

Comment posted on December 17, 2011 7:33 AM
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