Snoopy wasn't the only thing to pop up.
Watched the “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” with the family last week; you know how that goes, we have the DVD but rather than trying to dig it up you may as well watch the annual TV broadcast. As the subject line suggests, it was still great, but not quite as great when pop-up promo ads for “Charlie’s Angels” and “Extreme Makeover” clutter the screen. (At this point, we’ve all become immune to the perpetual network logo that appears in some corner of the screen, so that’s moot.)
Now, this next remark will be the equivalent of applauding a baseball player for running hard to first base, something that should happen all the time but so seldom does anymore that we point it out only when it happens. On that note, I’m actually going to give ABC some credit for not overdoing the pop-up promos. By my unofficial count, only three promos appeared – all for brief periods and all at the beginning of sequences (after the title sequence, then twice immediately following commercial breaks). I point this out because my (least) favorite example of a classic being marred by pop-up promos is the annual TBS showings of “The Wizard of Oz”.
For the last two years I’ve been tracking the preponderance of annoying promo graphics that seemed to present themselves at inopportune times. Two years ago, it was George Lopez whose head popped up on the Yellow Brick Road, obstructing the view of the dance steps of Dorothy and her friends as they headed for the Emerald City.
Last year, just as Dorothy and company appeared at the front door of the Wizard’s palace, a fifth character appeared. It was Conan O’Brien, apparently there to ask the Wizard for a high-rated talk show.
We’re only a few weeks away from this year’s TBS ”Wizard of Oz” showings. So who will distract our attention this year? Well, if the just-past Major League Baseball playoffs on TBS are any indication, it would appear that Conan will be back for an encore. Maybe this year he should pop up alongside the Lollipop Guild representatives of Munchkinland. That would seem fitting.
Now, back to Charlie Brown. A few years back I purchased the holiday special DVD collection. I am always intrigued by the chronology of events, so I noticed that the Christmas special was the first to air, in 1965. The following Fall, the Halloween special appeared. I noticed that the Woodstock character hadn’t been created yet. He appears in the Thanksgiving special, which, to my surprise, did not air until 7 years after the Halloween special.
So I just did a search and took a look at the primetime specials chronology of Charlie Brown series. I had just told my daughter that The Great Pumpkin was the second in the series, but I was wrong. “Charlie Brown’s All Stars” appeared in June of 1966, making The Great Pumpkin the third Peanuts special. The Thanksgiving special was the tenth overall. Even “You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown” (8th special), which was shown on ABC after The Great Pumpkin, preceded the Thanksgiving show. That one, which was notable for the Snoopy “Joe Cool” sequence, aired just a week before the 1972 election – the overwhelming re-election of President Richard Nixon.
Two others I enjoyed were “It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown” – with the classic baseball scenes and “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.”
But looking at the entire lineup of specials, they eventually jumped the shark with “Flashbeagle” (yes, based on Flashdance), as well as, “Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown” and “Snoopy: The Musical”. Can’t say I saw any of those.
By the way, this is the second straight year I watched Great Pumpkin and found myself compelled – though somewhat perplexed – by the whole Snoopy World War I flying ace sequence. He is shot down and forced to fend for himself as he traverses the French countryside on foot, with that surreal flute music accompanying his sojourn. The effect was positively eerie. Snoopy had quite the vivid imagination for a canine, thanks to Charles M. Schultz.
Anyway, I hope you had a chance to catch The Great Pumpkin this year…. you blockheads!
(“Blockhead”: now there’s a put-down we haven’t heard since the Peanuts specials. Sally exclaims it three times during her heartwarming “I was robbed” diatribe in the pumpkin patch. Stream of consciousness note: I’ve posted before that I used to enjoy watching Match Game reruns as a time capsule on figures of speech, famous people and other phenomena reflective of the period in which occurred the show’s heyday, throughout the 1970s. Now imagine this celebrity match clue: Blank-Head. You think back then anyone would’ve suggested “Block” as an answer? Because they sure wouldn’t today, and that’s tragic. It’s a great putdown. Let’s all start a movement to bring it back to the lexicon.)