Christmas, if you celebrate it, means tradition. Some families give gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day (Crash Davis does not approve of this, BTW), some sing carols — although speaking personally, no house I have lived in since the 1970s has ever been visited by carolers — and some watch their favorite holiday-themed TV shows.
Among holidays, Christmas is far and away the leader in TV specials, both in quantity (Lifetime seems to churn a new dozen every year) and venerability, which brings me to A Charlie Brown Christmas. The show has aired at least once (often more) a December since its debut in 1965, making it older than me and almost all of my friends.
It’s been a good run, but at the risk of Scrooging things up, let me suggest it might be time to put Snoopy and the gang out to pasture.
For starters, there’s the message. ACBC follows our hero, perpetual underdog Charlie Brown as he becomes increasingly dismayed/outraged by the rampant commercialism surrounding Christmas: cash prizes for best house decorating? His baby sister requesting cash from Santa? AN ALUMINUM TREE? All very distressing, to be sure.
And all old hat, unfortunately. If Charles Schultz’s cautionary tale about runaway materialism was supposed to somehow rein in the country’s annual display of greed, I’m afraid it has failed in a way that can only be described as “utterly.”
What’s the over/under on how many of these people make sure to watch both A Charlie Brown Christmas *and* The Grinch every year? Never mind that you can simply buy a facsimile of Charlie Brown’s pathetic needle-dropping tree at your finest local retail outlets anyway, just in case you didn’t feel like pulling a random branch off a nearby tree in true DIY fashion.
Then there’s the animation.
Look, I grew up in what was possibly the shittiest era of animation imaginable: the 1970s and ’80s. These were the years following the heydays of Looney Tunes and Disney and before the rise of Miyazaki and Pixar. Lots of Hanna-Barbera, in other words. And even by those standards, A Charlie Brown Christmas looks like crap.
Granted, Schultz’s original artwork was pretty simple to begin with, but I was actually given a Blu-ray of the show a couple years ago. and it really does rewrite the definition of “polishing a turd.”
And like I said, it isn’t as if there aren’t a thousand alternatives out there, from Spongebob to He-Man to Phineas & Ferb. Some of them are actually pretty good, but that’s not the point. All of this is the fault of A Charlie Brown Christmas, because it was the first kids’ property to “do Christmas.” Whatever the message, it opened the floodgates for everybody else.
Forty seven years is formidable, but enough is enough. The Christmas shopping season now runs from before Thanksgiving to just after New Year’s, with decorations going up before Halloween. Charlie Brown fought the good fight, but he lost, and losers need to step aside gracefully before they wear out their welcome. Like Bud Adams.
And maybe now we can return to some real Christmas entertainment:
This piece originally appeared in Art Attack, a Houston Press blog. While we wait for Luke Y. Thompson to start as editor of Topless Robot, we’ll occasionally be publishing stories from Voice Media Group sites.