It’s almost nostalgic to remember back to the time when our primary concern was about the commercialization of Christmas. At least Charlie Brown got to do a Christmas play – in school, no less. Not a “holiday” program or a “winter” program. To show how far we’ve drifted, it’s a little surprising that the television execs haven’t renamed this A Charlie Brown Holiday.
This was the first attempt to bring Charles Schulz’s characters to the small screen, and it was almost the last. Network executives didn’t want the King James Bible being read, they wanted adult voice actors to speak the parts, and they wanted a laugh track. They were horrified at the idea of Vince Guaraldi’s jazz music on the track. Rumor has it that they were appalled when they saw the finished product.
And yet, the show was both a critical and a popular hit. Harriet Van Horne of the New York World-Telegram said, “Linus’ reading of the story of the Nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season.”
We love to watch Snoopy dancing. We delight at Vince Guaraldi’s music. (“Christmas Time Is Here” is now a seasonal standard.) We feel Charlie Brown’s hope at the choice of his scrawny Christmas tree, and his despair as it’s ridiculed.
And we never get tired of the kids shouting, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” before singing “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” at the end. What a great, great special.