Among the few things I still enjoy about Halloween is watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on TV. They usually run it a couple of times, but this year I had my wife record it on DVR so that I could watch it on the weekend when I knew I would have time to enjoy it properly. I know that I could have watched in online, but it wouldn’t be the same experience as seeing it on a big screen TV with a bag of potato chips and a tall iced tea. All in all, I suppose it’s become one of my guilty pleasures.
We are now just a couple of years away from the fiftieth anniversary of this classic show. I wish Charles Schultz had lived long enough to witness that milestone. Not many performances, live or animated, on the big or small screens, can boast of that magnitude of longevity.
I was pleased to learn that ABC continues to bring in ratings and advertising revenue from “Great Pumpkin” (although not from my wife and I, as we fast forwarded through the commercials, thank you very much). Well, duh, if it were otherwise, the show would long ago have faded into history and ended up as the subject of an obscure trivia question on Jeopardy.
I noticed the hash tag in the corner of the screen and then read online that the show received a fair bit of traffic on Twitter. I don’t think anyone could have imagined Twitter, the internet, DVRs or big screen TVs back when the show first aired in 1966. I am pleased to see that the best of popular culture survives the tests of time and technology. And I hope that, generations from now, the great-great-great-great grandchildren of the Baby Boomers continue to have the opportunity to usher in the holiday season with “Great Pumpkin” and still find it to be a treat rather than a trick.
A few of the lines in “Great Pumpkin” strike me as rather forward thinking and ahead of their time. I am particularly thinking of the scene early in the show when Charlie Brown can’t believe that Linus is actually writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin again. When Linus describes his beliefs regarding the Great Pumpkin rising out of the pumpkin patch and bringing toys to all the girls and boys, Charlie Brown shakes his head and mutters “must be denominational differences!” Remember, this was written a good forty years before the concepts of political correctness and multiculturalism entered into the public consciousness and vocabulary.
I get a particular kick out of the way that every major character in the show nurses his or her own favorite fantasy. We may feel sorry for Linus spending the night in the pumpkin patch and having his most fervent hopes dashed once again. But what about Charlie Brown? He, of course, is the perennial loser. He believes that:
- this will be the year that Lucy finally allows him to kick the football (before falling flat on his face yet again)
- he will collect lots of goodies when he goes out trick or treating with all his friends (and then ends up with a bag full of rocks)
- he has finally come up in the world in that, for the first time in his life, he has been invited to a party (before Lucy disabuses him of this foolish notion, noting that his name must have been erroneously taken from the “list of people not to invite”).
But what of little Sally, who remains (at least for a while) loyal to Linus, as both of them freeze out in the pumpkin patch? Just as Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin, Sally believes in Linus (and thereby loses out on both candy and the Halloween party).
And what about Snoopy, the World War I flying ace, who believes that his doghouse is a Sopwith Camel and that he can chase down the Red Baron? (At least until he is shot down behind enemy lines in France.)
Even Lucy, smarter than all of them combined and forever cast as the villain, opines that one’s Halloween costume should be diametrically opposed to one’s personality. The joke, of course, is that she dresses up as a witch.
I like the way that Schultz has Linus compare and contrast the Great Pumpkin with Santa Claus. Just because GP isn’t as well known as the jolly man in red, he muses, doesn’t mean that the flying squash is any less deserving of his loyalty.
Let’s hear it for equal opportunity cultural myths.
I can hardly wait for the airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.