Writing Wins and Woes: Oh, Good Grief!

There is good grief, isn’t there? There is the kind of grief you use to build upon your life. The experience of grief can be helpful when someone else is in need, and you can comfort them because they feel the way you feel. It can be helpful when that grief can be poured out into a sad story. It can be helpful when another person shows you compassion and your relationship grows because of this. I have experience all these things in my grief this year.

But I’m not here to write about that kind of grief. I’m here to share the good grief of Charlie Brown. This is a Christmas blog. How many know the history of a Charlie Brown Christmas? This TV special almost was never made. In fact, it was a fluke that it was made at all. It was the first of many Peanuts movies and specials, almost 50 of them and it has aired on television since 1965.

It actually came after Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi failed in their efforts to get A Boy Named Charlie Brown sold to the networks in 1963. But two years later after Peanuts made the cover of Time magazine, an ad agent for Coke called Mendelson and asked him if he ever thought of making a Peanuts Christmas special. Mendelson lied and said he did. It didn’t take long, though, for him and Charles Shulz to come up with a story, a matter of hours really. The story was a beautiful mixture of a sad Christmas tree, a failed Christmas play, Christmas carols and jazz. The icing on the cake was the wonderful story of the true meaning of Christmas–Jesus’ birth. Unfortunately, this cake topping made it almost unpalatable to TV execs who didn’t want the religious emphasis and this wasn’t even the 2000’s.

Somehow it was made and A Charlie Brown Christmas wowed everybody. It won an Emmy and a Peabody Award and the week it was aired it was #2 in the ratings, right after Bonanza, but is Bonanza still being aired primetime today? Fraid not.

Most of us have never seen the entire Peanuts Christmas special because some of it was edited out for commercials and dislike of content by the advertisers. There is a scene in the original where Lucy throws Linus out of the skating rink into a Coke sign. The tin can blanket whacking was taken out and actually restored for video.

Although it was made in sunny California, Shulz wanted snow in the special because he was from the snowy midwest. The cartoon was made with actual children’s voices except for Snoopy, whose voice was Mendelson himself.

Have a happy Charlie Brown Christmas everybody. I’ll see you in the New Year. 43258-A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas

 

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