This past Tuesday was the annual broadcast of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on network television. For the past couple of years the rights to the Charlie Brown Holiday specials have been owned by ABC. These specials have brought joy to millions of families for over 40 years and what does ABC do to celebrate it? They come in with their greedy little network executive hands and start whacking off scenes from this classic in order to fit more commercials into the half hour. Even more annoying is all the time they dedicated to promoting their new brainless Disney CG special "Prep and Landing" - which being as humble as they are they already started describing it as the "soon to be a classic" special. I just saw this open letter sent in by an annoyed viewer to ABC and I thought it was a perfect comment on this sad attitude from a major network towards such a classic as A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS. Here it is in its entirety:
FROM: Leon Lynn
RE: Desecration of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
How could you?
For years and years I have awaited the network broadcast of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as the true herald of the holiday season. I brought my kids up with the same tradition — one which has been made no less special for us by the fact that they happen to be Jewish.
Tonight we sat in horror and watched what you have done to the single greatest cartoon ever made. How many minutes did you cut out of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” so you could run more commercials?
Gone was Sally’s materialistic letter to Santa, which finally sends Charlie screaming from the room when she says she will settle for 10s and 20s.
Gone was Schroeder’s miraculous multiple renditions of “Jingle Bells” from a toy piano, including the one that sounds distinctly like a church organ.
Gone was Linus using his blanket as an improvised slingshot to knock a can off the fence no one else can hit, complete with ricochet sound effect.
Gone were the kids catching snowflakes on their tongues and commenting on their flavor.
Gone even was poor Shermy’s only line. He thought he had it bad because he was always tasked to play a shepherd. He had no idea.
And why were all these classic scenes cut? To plug more ads into the show, of course. To sell burgers and greeting cards — and to relentlessly plug the insipid-looking new Disney “soon to be a classic” show immediately following. (I didn’t watch the new show, by the way. I was laid far too low by what had just happened.) Cramming all of these ads into the 30-minute broadcast of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” required major edits to a cartoon that has spent 44 years now trying to remind us that Christmas is supposed to transcend crass commercialism.
Do you have no sense of irony?
A couple of weeks ago I noted that you can now buy a plastic replica of the pathetic little real-wood Christmas tree Charlie Brown brings home from the tree lot otherwise monopolized by shiny fake trees. I thought we had sunk as low as we could. Obviously I was wrong.
Oh, and by the way: The sound was half a second behind the picture: They were not synched properly. I thought this was pretty sloppy for a major TV network, but I was willing to look past it. What I cannot look past is the chopping to bits of a genuine classic, not just to pump more ads at us, but in direct conflict with the message that has made it a classic.
When I was a kid, the annual broadcast of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was a holiday unto itself. It was the only time we ever saw ads for Dolly Madison snack cakes, for one thing. But more importantly, it actually framed the coming holiday for me in a meaningful way.
The shepherds in their fields had no corporate sponsors. Nobody had bought the naming rights for the manger. The infant Jesus did not have an endorsement deal lined up with a particular line of swaddling clothes.
Instead he came, the story goes, to preach universal love, and the abandonment of false ideals like the acquisition of gross material wealth in favor of something far more valuable.
You have not just lost sight of this, or turned your backs on it. You have stomped it into the mud.
You should be ashamed of yourselves.
But I bet you aren’t. I bet you’re way past that.
Count my family out for next year.