IT’S CHRISTMASTIME AGAIN, CHARLIE BROWN
Original Air Date: November 27, 1992
For the their 36th primetime animated special, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang revisit Christmas for the first time in almost 30 years!
Does anybody really need to tell you that A Charlie Brown Christmas was huge?
Since its first airing in 1965, it’s been broadcast every year since, on multiple networks, and has pretty much become synonymous with the entire concept of the Christmas Special. To that end, it’s almost odd that it took Charles Schultz and Bill Melendez three decades to return to the well.
Seriously, this special made its debut at a gas station
Instead of forging an all new tale, It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown was adapted directly from numerous Holiday-themed “Peanuts” strips. This special also marked the first time a Peanuts special premiered direct-to-video – it was sold exclusively on VHS at Shell gas stations beginning in September of 1992?!
In case it isn’t obvious, I’m far less motivated to cover the “classic” Christmas Specials everyone remembers. They’re generally well worn territory, and often above reproach. Which is why so far, I’ve gotten more of a kick out of dredging up the ones that, whether good or bad, have fallen through the cracks. It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown makes for a great entry because it’s all of the above criteria, rolled into one.
Linus’ cardboard sled is filled with Yule Tide FAIL
Who among us doesn’t have a soft spot for Charlie Brown and Christmas?! By my count, fucking everybody. It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown, though, certainly isn’t the reason why.
However, I’d like to stipulate right of the bat: It’s not that It’s Christmas Time Again is bad – far from it, actually. In fact, should you have an interest in any of the other Charlie Brown specials that have aired over the last 50 years, you’ll find plenty to love here.
Bill Melendez once again employed children instead of actors in the speaking roles, so there’s little-to-no change to the quaint Peanuts style of minimalist animation and low-fi sound. Plus, they’ve even resurrected Vince Guaraldi’s immortally jazzy score for its first appearance in a Charlie Brown animated special since the composer’s death in 1975.
Peppermint Patty refuses to do her homework
It bears all the earmarks of its classic precursor, so why did it fail to resonate with audiences and receive only a single airing on CBS? Well, popular older brother aside, It’s Christmas Time Again just doesn’t have much of a story.
Charlie Brown’s pathetic tree makes a brief cameo at the very end
The original Charlie Brown Christmas has surely benefited from being one of the first Christmas specials, but you also can’t deny its remarkable distinctness, especially in the way it revels in the depressing nature of the Holidays, abject failure, and the cruelty of children.
Sally rehearses her single line in the Christmas play…it doesn’t go well
It’s Christmastime Again doesn’t even bear the benefits of having poor Charlie Brown as a central character to constantly kick in the teeth. And since it was adapted directly from multiple three-panel jokes ripped from several years worth of newspaper funnies, there’s not even a central theme here; instead, you’re presented with a series of vignettes which, while funny and quintessential Schulz, don’t give you a lot to hold onto. I’ll lay out an example for you:
“Where are all the candy canes?”
“Have you looked outside?”
The entire special simply rolls along with brief, dare I say Robot Chicken-esque, gags like the above, but it’s rather charming nonetheless. Even though there’s no unifying thesis at work, I’d still like to believe these are see some of Schulz’s personal thoughts on the nature of Christmas, updated for (slightly) more modern times.
A “credit card” is referenced as a rare reminder that this isn’t the 1950’s
Charlie Brown undergoes typical misfortune while trying to buy the “Little Red-Head Girl” a pair of gloves for $25 (a price I’d like to think was more reflective of current times).
Some punk ass kid mangles his inventory
And I couldn’t help but sympathize with him when he tried to sell his entire comic book collection to raise the funds.
We find out that the object of Chuck’s affection is named Peggy Jean
Whoops, turns out she already got the gloves! Now I’ll admit that that’s failure, it’s just nowhere near what we’ve come to know as Charlie Brown-level failure.
At least the gloves find a good home.
Chuck isn’t even the star here, actually. His sister Sally gets far more screen time, and she seems to be the one struggling with the meaning of Christmas, caught between her role in a Christmas play and the materialistic outlook of the Holidays.
Linus reads the Good Word from an unmarked Bible
Only Peppermint Patty’s parts retain that old-time Peanuts brand of melancholy, albeit mainly by way of her own ego issues wrapped in a Holiday shell, and you could say it’s more of a lesson in humility than humiliation.
Now that’s a Peanuts special!
Finally, A legitimate showing on the Crucifix Meter, which in fact was only included as criteria in the first place after rewatching A Charlie Brown Christmas. Once again, this one finds Linus reading lengthy passages to Sally straight from the Good Book. Score one for Jesus at last.
None. Unfortunately, Santa’s an adult, so there’s no place for him in the Peanuts world. They’re consistent, to say the least, and I know I didn’t want to hear the guy “Ho, Ho, Ho!” through a trombone mute.
Plenty, although it’s still rather disjointed when compared with the special everyone knows by heart. I’d like to think, though, that the internet could embrace It’s Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown in the same way they would a Watterson-approved adaptation of Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen comic strips. After all, it’s warm, and it should still feel altogether new since only the most comprehensive Peanuts fan would be familiar with its source material.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Support the Site!)
It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown has been largely relegated to a supporting role as a bonus feature on the many DVDs of A Charlie Brown Christmas – good news for those who don’t already own that Holiday staple. I’ve included the Blu-Ray just because I’m deliriously overjoyed that the thing exists in the first place. The stand-alone disc, Blu-Ray and Holiday bundle all feature both A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s Christmastime Again Charlie Brown, as well as a documentary entitled, A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Any way you slice it, you’re getting a lot of Holiday bang for your minimal Christmas buck.