Everybody loves the Peanuts holiday specials (well, maybe not everyone, but go with me here). But for me growing up, the pinnacle of cross-mediated Peanuts works was The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, which was produced for CBS between 1983 and 1985. The great thing about the series is that it quite faithfully adapts many of the original storylines from Charles Schulz’s Peanut comic strip. And among my favorite Peanuts bits has always been those in which Lucy and Linus’s baby brother, Rerun, rides on the back of his mother’s bicycle, which are here quite brilliantly realized. At last we can revisit these and other great Peanuts moments from The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show as the Warner Archive Collection has made available the complete series as part of their manufactured-on-demand (MOD) DVD catalogue. The set collects all 18 episodes of the series on two discs, together for the first time in a single collection!
In adapting the strips to the screen as Bill Melendez’s (the voice of Snoopy) production company did in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, you get a better sense of what the Peanuts gang’s lives are really like than you do from the specials. Here there’s plenty of baseball-playing, kite-flying, and attempted football-kicking, but we also get scenes of the kids are just sitting around at school being bored or are mindlessly watching television, brief though these moments may be. And these moments give us incredible insight into characters who are otherwise predominantly understood by viewers according to their actions in the specials.
And it’s appropriate that numerous scenes in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show involve our main character visiting his psychiatrist. After all, something that I’ve come to realize more and more as an adult, and is particularly evident in this series, is that these children suffer from some serious psychoses. This really became apparent to me upon a recent (i.e. some time in the last five years) viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” The great revelation there is that Linus in particular is an absolute lunatic. Couple his unfounded faith in the Great Pumpkin with scenes of him listlessly standing in the van Pelt lawn until some passing craziness (Charlie Brown wandering by wrapped in kite string, say) shakes him from his stupor. Peppermint Patty perceives Snoopy to be human. Charlie Brown is an anhedonic, manic depressive. And Lucy… who the hell knows what’s wrong with her?!
This may come across as a negative critique of the series, but I assure you it’s not. What I mean to say is that Schulz’s creations are gloriously wacky characters, and we see them here as originally intended given the producer’s tendency to adapt Schulz’s original comic strip narratives herein. As a result, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show is a far funnier overall work than the holiday specials, which surpass the series in pure iconicity.