December 27, 2018

Positivity: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ — The Christmas classic that almost wasn’t

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

The scene containing Linus’s recitation from the Gospel of Luke:

The text:

CHARLIE BROWN: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster.

I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about.

(Screams) Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

LINUS: Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

(moves to the center of the auditorium stage) Lights, please?

And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the fields, 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 so afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not, for behold I bring you 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 and goodwill towards men.”

(steps away, moves back to Charlie Brown)

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

From the USA Today story (HT Scott Whitlock at NewsBusters):

Posted 12/5/2005 11:42 PM; Updated 12/6/2005 9:27 AM

When CBS bigwigs saw a rough cut of A Charlie Brown Christmas in November 1965, they hated it.

“They said it was slow,” executive producer Lee Mendelson remembers with a laugh. There were concerns that the show was almost defiantly different: There was no laugh track, real children provided the voices, and there was a swinging score by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi.

Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez fretted about the insistence by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz that his first-ever TV spinoff end with a reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke by a lisping little boy named Linus.

“We told Schulz, ‘Look, you can’t read from the Bible on network television,’ ” Mendelson says. “When we finished the show and watched it, Melendez and I looked at each other and I said, ‘We’ve ruined Charlie Brown.’ ”

Good grief, were they wrong. The first broadcast was watched by almost 50% of the nation’s viewers. “When I started reading the reviews, I was absolutely shocked,” says Melendez, 89. “They actually liked it!”

… The show won an Emmy and a Peabody award and began a string of more than two dozen Peanuts specials.

… Schulz, who died in 2000, never doubted the power of his tale of Charlie Brown’s quest for the true meaning of Christmas amid the garish trappings of a commercialized holiday. “It comes across in the voice of a child,” says Jeannie Schulz, the wife of the cartoonist, whose friends called him Sparky. “Sparky used to say there will always be a market for innocence.”

… On paper, the show’s bare-bones script would seem to offer few clues to its enduring popularity. Mendelson says the show was written in several weeks, after Coca-Cola called him just six months before the program aired to ask if Schulz could come up with a Peanuts Christmas special.

Charlie Brown, depressed as always, can’t seem to get into the Christmas spirit. His friend and nemesis Lucy suggests that he direct the gang’s Christmas play. But the Peanuts crew is focused on how many presents they’re going to get, not on putting on a show.

“Just send money. How about tens and twenties?” says Charlie’s sister Sally as she dictates a letter to Santa Claus.

Charlie goes to find a Christmas tree to set the mood. He returns with a scrawny specimen that prompts his cohorts to mock him as a blockhead. In desperation, Charlie asks if anyone can explain to him what Christmas is all about.

“Sure, I can,” says his friend Linus, who proceeds to recite the story of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke in the King James Version of the Bible. “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, and goodwill toward men,’ ” Linus says. “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. …

Go here for the full 2005 USA Today story.

More background is here.

Now in its 53rd year, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on December 6 and 20.

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