Picture this: Fifty years ago, TV executives viewed “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and basically gave it a thumbs down.
According to an article on cnn.com, Lee Mendelson, the special’s executive producer, said that executives from CBS figured the cartoon would be a once-and-done thing.
It looks like Mendelson, other producers and “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz had the last laugh.
How many of us grew up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”? How many of us have children who watch it every year?
I’m sure that many have, and many more will in the years to come.
It’s interesting to note that 50 years ago, the story line focused on Charlie Brown seeking the true meaning of Christmas and expressing frustration over the commercialization of the holiday (remember the twinkling lights all over Snoopy’s dog house?). That story remains prevalent today, as people grow weary over the perpetual battle of “Christmas” versus “Holiday,” putting Nativity sets in public places and even singing particular Christmas carols at public events.
Of course, the blanket-hugging Linus van Pelt puts Christmas in perspective during the special after Charlie Brown asks if anyone knows what Christmas is all about. He takes center stage as the Peanuts gang works on their Christmas pageant. According to the cnn.com article, Linus recites the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, then and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Another interesting note: According to the article, Schulz wanted the passage in the story despite producers’ hesitations. Eventually, Schulz, a religious man, prevailed. Fifty years later, Linus’ speech remains, no doubt, one of the classic moments in Christmas specials viewed by millions every year.
Happy 50th birthday to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” with wishes for many more broadcasts and views!