1960’s Collection (Warner Bros. Home Video-2009)
Just because you have probably seen two of these six classic TV specials – “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” – pretty much every year of your life, it doesn’t mean that they are not worth revisiting often and enthusiastically.
For the classic 1960’s Peanuts specials were a shining beacon in one of the greatest eras of children’s television. In a television world full of timeless specials like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and series like The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo – Where Are You!, these specials stand tall – the best of the best.
There is a reason why these specials became perennials.
They are entertaining, timeless family entertainment. They were appropriate for children but didn’t pander to them. They were also smart enough to backload a treasure-trove of smart humor for the adults. There is humor through clever dialogue and through silly slapstick. The specials were not at all cynical and yet they were often pointedly ironic. Still, they took their subjects seriously. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was a stinging reproach to the commercialization of the holiday season (Lucy suggests Christmas is “a racket” run by “a big Eastern syndicate”) that seems all the more trenchant as the religious aspects of the holiday are shuffled more and more to the background.
They were not afraid of the religious aspects here, though. On what kind of a children’s special can you see them stopping the storyline to drop this religious knowledge:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”
Quoting the bible – specifically Luke 2:8-14. Doing it extensively. Also, doing it rather unobtrusively – they were able to fit it all into the storyline comfortably. And making it sound super-cool when you do it. That’s a trick very few holiday specials can pull off. Even this Jewish boy has to tip his hat.
Plus the specials had some of the coolest music ever.
By the time of “Great Pumpkin,” Charles Schulz’s writing became even more subtle and subversive, making the special even more interesting for the adults watching along. There were jokes that would go completely over your head as a small child, however you can truly appreciate them as an adult. For example, when explaining to Sally that he is certain that he has found the perfect pumpkin patch, Linus exclaims happily, “I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy.”
Try that turn of phrase out on your grade-school self. The Peanuts specials work on a multitude of levels – and work equally well on all of them.
But let’s face it, if you are over 30 years old you know those two specials by heart. The real treat here is the resurrection of four other Peanuts specials which have not seeped into your subconscious quite as indelibly.
“Charlie Brown All-Stars” revolved around the Peanut’s gangs’ perennially losing softball team, in which skipper Chuck loses the chance at sponsorship and uniforms when he refuses to cut the girls on the team, and the dog. “He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown” has Snoopy needing a refresher course at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm in obedience, but instead ends up living off of Peppermint Patty’s good nature. “It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown” takes the gang to summer camp. And perhaps the best of the four is “You’re In Love, Charlie Brown,” which chronicles Charlie’s unrequited crush on the little red headed girl.
None of the four are as good as the two classics, but all four have some wonderful moments and are well worth owning.
This is classic television animation and works wonders both in a nostalgic matter and just as fine family television. When you see some of the hyperactive, snarky garbage that passes for TV cartoons these days, Peanuts: 1960s Collection is even more vital.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 2, 2009.