Charlie Brown is probably the best known “lovable loser,” of all time and is a creation of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. His first appearance was in Schulz’s 1948 comic strip, Lil Folks. Two years later on October 2, 1950, Charlie Brown would star in the newly created Peanuts comic strip.
On December 9, 1965 the very first animated television Peanuts special aired, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Some were concerned that it’s message of the true meaning of Christmas, might prove to be too religious for some, but the program was a huge success in the ratings, coming in second to the well established TV western, Bonanza. The success of this special opened the doors for more Peanuts specials.During the 70’s, good ole “blockhead” would star in 12 Peanuts animated television specials. Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at those shall we.
Play It Again, Charlie Brown
Plot: Featuring piano playing Schroeder. For years, Lucy has suffered unrequited love for Schroeder and this time around with some help from Peppermint Patty, she thinks she has found a way to win his heart. She encourages him to give his first piano recital at the P.T.A. Benefit Show, but when he discovers that Peppermint Patty has axed Beethoven in favor of rock and roll, he isn’t so sure he wants to proceed. But, with a little coaxing from Lucy who suggests he try something a little more to his liking musically, he agrees to rehearse with his backup group: Charlie Brown on banjo, Pig-Pen on drums and Snoopy on bass. After a bit of practice he simply can’t take it and throws up his hands in defeat saying that he has “sold out like everyone else.” Will he stick to his guns and play his beloved Beethoven?
- The seventh prime time animated Peanuts special.
- Pianist/harpsichordist Lilian Steuber plays the Beethoven sonatas for the special.
- Premiered on CBS March 28, 1971.
- Available on the DVD collection:Peanuts: 1970’s Collection, Vol. 1.
You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown
Plot: This is a special involving school politics. When Sally’s locker won’t open, she decides to never go to school again. Charlie Brown decides to help her and discovers that the problem is something simple, she is just too short to reach it to open it. She then she uses him as her “Show and Tell” project which embarrasses Charlie greatly.
Then, Linus decides that Charlie Brown would make a good candidate for class president, but Lucy, who has already taken a poll, nixes the idea because Charlie Brown would never get elected. The next choice for candidate is Linus who will run against Russel Anderson. Lucy is in charge of the platform which includes a promise for better lockers, lower drinking fountains and fourth-grade dancing parties. But, Linus blows his chances for the position when he mentions the Great Pumpkin during a campaign speech. With only one vote left to be cast, that of Russel Anderson, it’s easy to see who gets to be class president, right?
- Premiered on CBS on October 29, 1972.
- The eighth prime time Peanuts special.
- The television debut of Woodstock.
- Joe Cool gets his own theme in this special.
- Plot for this special was taken from a Peanuts comic strip that ran in 1964.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Plot: This special provided one more opportunity for Charlie Brown to mess things up. Charlie has to go to his grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving but ends up in a bind when Marcie, Peppermint Patty and Franklin invite themselves to his house for Thanksgiving dinner.
Hapless Charlie is at a loss as to what to do, when Linus comes up with a plan. There will be two dinners, one for the Peanuts gang and with help from Snoopy and Woodstock, the food peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn and jelly beans. Patty is outraged about the meal and Charlie is deeply saddened because he believes he has ruined everyone’s Thanksgiving. But that proves to be untrue, when all are invited to his grandmother’s house for a “proper” Thanksgiving meal.
- Theme song Little Birdie.
- Emmy Award winner for Charles Schulz Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children’s Programming 1974.
- Premiered on CBS November 20, 1973.
There’s No Time For Love Charlie Brown
Plot: Charlie Brown needs to write an essay that will be worthy of an “A”, if he wants to salvage his grades for the final marking period. When it’s announced that a field trip to the local art museum, he realizes that this is his only chance. But, some how he and his friends, Snoopy, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie, along with his sister, Sally end up at the local super market and mistakenly believe it is the museum.When he discovers, thanks to Linus, that he was indeed in a supermarket and not the local museum he believes his chances of getting the grade he needs is doomed, but is very surprised when he gets his essay back; its an “A”, the teacher was very pleased with his creative way of writing about his field trip. It seems something good has finally worked out for our lovable “loser” Charlie Brown.
- This is Marcie’s first appearance and she kisses Charlie Brown for the first time.
- This special reveals Peppermint Patty’s crush on Charlie Brown.
- Premiered on CBS March 11, 1973.
- The ninth animated Charlie Brown special
It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown
Plot: The big mystery in this special is who stole Woodstock’s nest. Snoopy decides to find the answer and dons his Sherlock Holmes coat, calabash pipe and magnifying glass. He then proceeds to interrogate Charlie Brown, look for finger prints at Lucy and Linus’s home. Marcie doesn’t have much to say, he gets a nose full of dust when he visits Pig-Pen, and Peppermint Patty was into playing a game of cops and robbers even going so far as to don a mask! It appears that the case is too difficult to solve, right? Wrong. As it turns out, the culprit is none other than Charlie’s little sister Sally, who simply borrowed Woodstock’s nest for her science project on prehistoric birds. When she has to give it back, she is in a panic and has to come up with a new project which comes in the shape of Snoopy helping to prove Pavlov’s experiment that if you ring, you can get a dog to drool when promised food.
- Premiered on CBS on February 1, 1974.
- Lucy’s booth now contains a sign Legal Aid 7 Cents.
- Snoopy’s pipe blows bubbles instead of smoke.
It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
Plot: Leave it to Lucy to think of Easter as just another way for boys to give presents to pretty girls. Schroeder’s didn’t like her “gimme, gimme, gimme” attitude and saw Easter as a time for renewal and the start of spring.
Peppermint Patty was having trouble getting the eggs prepared as Marcie used three dozen…frying them, cooking them and boiling them, all without their shells. But, Linus was positive that the Easter Beagle would save the day, but Sally was rather skeptical about that claim considering her non encounter with the Great Pumpkin.Snoopy spied on Lucy as she hid her eggs and then went about gathering them and distributed them from his basket of goodies as the Easter Beagle, but sadly, when he came upon Charlie Brown, the basket was empty. All Charlie Brown could do was sigh.
- Premiered on CBS April 9, 1974.
- This original airing marked the 50th broadcast of a Peanuts special (including reruns).
Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
Plot: It’s getting close to Valentine’s Day at Birchwood School and the Peanuts clan are getting ready for Cupid’s visit. Linus has a crush on his teacher and buys her a box of chocolates. Sally, believing them to be for her makes Linus a hand made card. Snoopy makes a homemade heart for his buddy Woodstock, who of course gives a card to Snoopy in return.Lucy demands affection from Schroeder, who only has feelings of love for his music and in a temper tantrum Lucy destroys his toy piano. Of course, Charlie Brown is waiting and waiting for a Valentine card to arrive, but when no cards arrive, he lets his frustration get the best of him and kicks his mailbox post, succeeding only in hurting his toe.At the school Valentine’s Day party, Charlie brings a briefcase along, in great hopes that he will get enough cards to fill it, but sadly as the party progress and Valentines are exchanged, he gets none, and Lucy sums it up by saying “Who would waste a valentine on stupid ol’ Charlie Brown“. Violet feels sorry about how badly Charlie has been treated and gives him a recycled Valentine the next day and Charlie happily accepts it thinking that, even though it was given in pity and guilt, that perhaps it will change his luck for the coming years.I have to admit that this special was a little bit of a downer if you ask me, but I guess Charlie Brown had the right attitude, to hope that the getting of one, even in pity, might just be the one thing that changes his luck for the better in coming years.Oh, and to answer Lucy’s question from above— I would send Charlie Brown a Valentine, how about you?
- Premiered on CBS January 28, 1975.
- Every time this special aired, hundreds of Valentines poured in for Charlie Brown!
You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown
Plot: This special opens with Snoopy on the tennis courts, showing off his skills and also showing he isn’t the greatest at sportsmanship (maybe this is where John McEnroe learned his “on-the-court” social skills?) especially when he is bested by his pal, Woodstock.But, soon another challenge arises in the form of Peppermint Patty who is recruiting folks to race in the charity motocross. She invites Snoopy to participate and then the rest of the clan. Charlie Brown and Linus (who agrees to be his pit crew) pool their money together and get a bike that looks as thought it is on its last legs, its smokes and backfires, but at least it runs. When the race starts, The Masked Marvel (Snoopy in disguise) and Charlie Brown have a wipe out. A mixup of some sort puts Snoopy in the hospital and Charlie Brown at the vets, but once he gets his bearings back, Charlie goes and gets Snoopy and together they head back to the race. Charlie discovers that he wont be able to continue without a helmet and Linus creates one out of a pumpkin that he hollows out. Back in action, it’s soon down to three riders, The Masked Marvel, Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown. Due to some mishaps, Charlie ends up crossing the finish line first, he has done it, he has won his first race. His prize turns out to be a gift certificate for five free haircuts and he isn’t impressed as he has very little hair and most importantly, his father is a barber.The next day, Charlie Brown is back at the baseball field, filled with the “winning spirit” and is determined that he will win this game, but of course, he pitches and a line drive goes right by him, taking with it his clothes! Poor Charlie Brown just can’t win, eh?
- Premiered on CBS October 28, 1975.
- According to Charlie Brown his baseball team has had 980 straight defeats!
- This special won an Emmy in 1976 Outstanding Evening Children’s Special.
- The inspiration for the Moto-Cross storyline came from Schulz’s own son, Craig, who was into motorcycling at the time.
- Peppermint Patty’s bike number was 7, Snoopy’s was 1 and Charlie Brown was 13.
It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown
Plot:This special starts out with Sally addressing her class telling them about Arbor Day, “the day when all the ships sail into the arbor”. Well, it sounded good, right? What Sally learns, as well as viewers is that Arbor Day is really about beautification and conservation. by the planting of trees.The gang decides to get into the act, by planting trees and then moving onto to just about anything that will grow including vines and vegetables. The only one left out of this was Charlie Brown who was busy cleaning up the baseball field for the upcoming game. He is totally unaware that a large tree will soon be planted on the pitcher’s mound, which, by the way does nothing to improve Peppermint Patty’s pitching style or temperament. But, it seems that all the vegetation in the ballpark works in the favor of Charlie Brown’s team, they just might be able to win a game, but the game is called on account of rain. Sigh, poor Charlie Brown.
- Premiered on CBS March 16, 1976.
- Rerun is seen for the first time.
- Vince Guaraldi, long time composer for these Peanuts specials, died of a heart attack while putting the finishing touches on the soundtrack for this special.
- Sally closes the special by quoting Arbor Day founder, J. Sterling Morton.
It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown
Plot: It’s homecoming at Birchwood, Charlie Brown’s school, and it is traditional that the celebration can not official begin until the home coming queen receives her kiss. This year the tradition falls on Charlie’s shoulders (or is that lips) and as fate would have it, the queen is the Little Red-Haired Girl, Heather.When the homecoming game begins, Snoopy is referee and Charlie is on the team as kicker and Lucy as the placekick setter. But even with so many watching, Lucy just can’t seem to let go of the desire to humiliate Charlie Brown and she pulls the ball away from him when he tries to kick it. The teams loses the game by one point and Charlie loses his one chance to be a hero.But, Charlie isn’t one to shirk his duty, he escorts Heather to the dance and summons up the nerve to kiss her. His is euphoric, his dream has come true, the only bad thing is that the next morning he has no memory of the event.
- This is the 16th prime time Peanuts special, premiered October 24, 1977 on CBS.
- Charles Schulz didn’t really want to draw the Little Red-Haired Girl because he felt he could not draw her to his or his reader’s satisfaction. He didn’t want to give her a name, either. But the plot of the special made these things necessary.
- When Peppermint Patty blames Charlie Brown for losing the game, many viewers wrote angry letters saying that it was Lucy’s fault. When the special was shown again in rerun, Patty’s comments were dubbed over.
What a Nightmare Charlie Brown!
Plot: This special takes a break from the usual in that it presents the pantomime fantasies of Snoopy. It’s a snowy day and Charlie Brown wants Snoopy to pull his sled, but he won’t have any of it, he is a pampered pooch and not one who has to work for his supper. Thinking that all he needs to do is show Snoopy what he wants, Charlie hooks himself up to the sled, only to have Snoopy jump on it and begin to have him pull the sled around the neighborhood. Snoopy has a fun time cracking the whip high above Charlie’s head.After indulging in too much pizza, Snoopy decides to go to bed and he has a nightmare. He dreams that he has been harnessed to a team of sled dogs in the Arctic and is forced to drive across to frozen tundra being mistreated and denied food and water. The other dogs bark loudly at him reminding him that he doesn’t fit in. He manages to find refuge in a root beer saloon where his piano playing skills enable him to get some food. Stepping into another room to get away from a brawl that has broken out, he finds himself on a stage where he entertains the crowd but gets booed off the stage and tossed back out into the cold.Soon, though, a change over comes him, he is now willing to fight for his share of the raw meat, fish and water, and he even challenges the lead dog for that position and wins! Snoopy has finally become a little less civilized.When the nightmare ends, much to his relief, he bangs on the door of the house and when Charlie Brown answers, he acts out the dream. Charlie let’s him come in, where he makes himself an ice cream sundae and then snuggles next to Charlie Brown on the bed.
- Premiered on CBS February 23, 1978.
- Theme song Over Civilized.
- Schulz was inspired to write this special after reading about the life of Arctic sled dogs. He wondered how a dog like Snoopy would measure up if placed in that situation.
You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown
Plot: As a member of his school’s Junior Olympics team, Charlie has trained hard with Peppermint Patty as his coach and hopes that his hard work will pay off, because he is up against Freddie Fabulous, the last year’s winner who wasn’t the least bit humble about his athletic skills.In the first few events, Charlie comes in last, but as the day progresses, he begins to show some improvement in his performance and even manages to win the seventh event. His chance to redeem himself and to win the decathlon hinges on the 1,500-meter race. Lucy tries to encourage him and, sadly, true to form, Charlie isn’t looking where he is going and runs off the track and ends up losing the race.
- Premiered on CBS March 19, 1979.
- Bruce Jenner worked as a consultant on this special.
- Snoopy (as the Masked Marvel) enters the decathlon to represent Ace Obedience School.
Charlie Brown Specials
- Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown (1976): A TV documentary that takes a look back at the first 25 years of Charlie Brown. This special was hosted by Carl Reiner
- Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown (1979) This special celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip as well as the 15th anniversary of Peanuts specials airing on CBS. This was hosted by Phyllis George
Copyright: Glory Miller/Graple’s Entertainment Archive 2017