Charlie Brown is well regarded for its seasonal specials, but which of the Peanuts’ holiday stories are the best?
There are many installments in the filmed Peanuts universe. While the comic strips provided slice-of-life antics from the kids, Snoopy, and Woodstock, the television specials probed deeper into the worlds of history classes and baseball games experienced by the Charles Schulz characters.
Additionally, Schulz ensured that the beloved Peanuts characters would be with fans the whole year ’round, thanks to a slew of seasonal specials that make merry each time of year that they air. Each has, at the very least, some merit to them. However, as rankings tend to show, it can be hard to top the classics. Even with Christmas over, there are plenty of holidays left to anticipate the return of Charlie Brown for.
Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales
This Christmas special from the Peanuts gang is a collection of vignettes, starring Snoopy, Linus, Sally, Lucy, and Charlie Brown.
While it gets points for being Schulz’s only posthumous writing credit, it hardly seems to be of a piece with his wider Peanuts sensibility. Instead, it’s a mishmash of merchandising with segments so short, none of them seem to resonate at all.
It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown
It’s Christmastime Again,A decade before Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales aired, the Peanuts revisited the winter well with It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown.
While it utterly fails to recapture the magic of the original 1965 special, it does at least share Peanuts DNA with those original comic strips. The vignettes contained a narrative through line similar to A Christmas Story and that’s about as much as could be asked by the 1990s.
It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown
When the Peanuts gang celebrated Arbor Day, it was clear that they weren’t just scraping the bottom of the barrel; they were splintering it in myriad directions.
Who gathers around the television to watch an Arbor Day festivity? With a droll story of a holiday report and a tree that encroaches on a baseball diamond, It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown never quite became a perennial classic.
I Want A Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown
Clearly, the Christmas season is rich with ore for the creative lineage of the Peanuts to mine. Surprisingly, the latest attempt at crafting a new classic for the yuletide season, I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown was the most successful.
Perhaps because it never pretended to be on par with the original or perhaps because its forty-minute running time gave it room to unfold satisfyingly, this special is a cut above some of the earlier holiday dreck. Plus, it features cameos from the greater Snoopy lore.
A Charlie Brown Valentine
If one is not a Peanuts scholar, it might be easy to confuse the two Valentine’s Day specials aired about Charlie Brown and his neurotic friends. This one was the later one, though, airing in 2002.
It was actually the first Peanuts special to air in eight years at the time. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much to excite the fans of the characters who’d been waiting to see them on screen again. Its convoluted, yet cliched narrative did not work to be a Peanuts classic.
It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
The gang’s first foray into the Easter holiday was clearly trying its best to be a mid-range hit in the same vein as It’s the Great Pumpkin. However, It’s the Easter Beagle was not nearly as delightful as its predecessor.
Yes, it has some bright moments, with Snoopy’s colorful frolic standing out most vividly. However, it’s mostly just a rehash of a number of plot points handled better by previous Peanuts specials, like Linus’ ceaseless faith and Charlie Brown’s unfortunate bullying.
Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!
Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! definitely seems like a whole lot of nonsense at first, but it does have some charm. It takes a bold creator to deliver a holiday special about parties and make it about War and Peace instead, after all.
While the adult singing voices in this special can be a bit jarring, they’re ultimately a nostalgic reminder of December’s denouement and how comforting it can be. Unless one has to read Leo Tolstoy during it.
Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
In the original 1975 Valentine’s Day special, Charlie Brown and Linus are just two lovestruck best friends navigating an unforgiving holiday.
It may be a mid-tier special, but it’s still an altogether memorable one and certainly better fare than some specials that celebrate Arbor Day. It benefits from the twinkling Vince Guaraldi and some of the more pensive moments in the Peanuts canon.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Like the New Year’s Eve special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is built on nonsense. Snoopy and Woodstock fight off lawn chairs while cooking an entire dinner (consisting of toast, popcorn, and jelly beans, among other delectable treats). Yet, Peppermint Patty is still ungrateful, despite the fact that she invited herself over to the Brown house.
It’s a tough look for Peppermint Patty, but the special still comes together nicely: with a discordant, cacophonous group rendition of “Over the River and Through the Woods.” It’s what Thanksgiving is all about.
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has remained a staple of the Halloween season because it is ultimately accessible and beloved by children of all ages.
After all, it features dense vocabulary and allusions to World War I. What do kids love more than that? Nothing says the spookiest time of the year like a dog reliving his past manufactured trauma as a World War I flying ace.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
In all sincerity, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown really is a ton of fun and it has some great comedic moments. A Charlie Brown Christmas, though, has laugh-out-loud jokes and the utmost sincerity, on par with that of the scraggly Christmas tree Charlie Brown adopts as his own.
There may be no greater moment in Peanuts history than when Charlie Brown wordlessly steps from the auditorium and observes the Christmas star twinkling above. A Charlie Brown Christmas isn’t just the best seasonal special from the Peanuts; it might be the best half-hour in the history of television.
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