Which Peanuts holiday special is the best?
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Watch it: 8 p.m. Thursday, ABC
This classic Halloween episode kicks off all the seasonal Peanuts specials, and rightfully so: It's clearly the best of the three. Sure, the Christmas one has the snow and the twinkling lights and the dancing, but the Peanuts Halloween adventure is hilarious and heartwarming. It all starts and ends with hopeful Linus, whose fervent belief in the Great Pumpkin and refusal to listen to the naysayers (Lucy, you meanie!) is downright moving. Hold on to those innocent dreams, Linus! I mean, he’s convinced the Great Pumpkin will choose his pumpkin patch to appear in because of its sincerity. Good grief, where's that sentiment on TV these days?
Classic Snoopy moment: Has to be when good ol' Snoops inadvertently appears as the Great Pumpkin after spending the night in "enemy territory" as a World War I flying ace intent on taking down the Red Baron.
Favorite line: "I went trick or treating and all I got was a bag of rocks!" – Charlie "I had a little trouble with the scissors" Brown.
Laugh factor? High. In fact, this could be the funniest of the Peanuts specials. See: perpetual punching bag Charlie Brown's excessively holey costume, Snoopy's dramatic reaction to Schroder's piano playing, Lucy's accidental Snoopy smooch.
--Michelle Stark, Times staff writer
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
Watch it: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, on ABC
The most subversive of the Holy Peanuts Triumvirate, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving upends almost all the solemn traditions of the holiday, even the going-to-Grandma’s denouement. For those of us dealing with annoying relatives (here embodied by a bossy, particularly amorous Peppermint Patty), this special always comes as a winking, in-it-together salve. Plus Snoopy’s toast-and-popcorn dinner menu could be his finest moment, allowing us to dream about dealing dinner plates like a deck of cards.
Classic Snoopy moment: Anyone who’s ever tried to look cool struggling to open a stubborn beach chair can feel the beagle’s pain as he does battle with a red-and-white-striped folding menace.
Favorite line: "I think I’m losing control of the whole world." — an especially fatalistic Charlie Brown after Peppermint Patty shanghais his turkey plans. We've been there, Chuck. We've been there.
Laugh factor? If you overlook the unspoken bleakness that Patty, Marcie and Franklin have absolutely nowhere to go on Thanksgiving — and that yellow birdie Woodstock resorts to cannibalism in the coda — this special opts for chuckles over sobs, especially when punctuated by Chuck’s classic over-the-river, through-the-woods kicker: “My grandmother lives in a condominium!”
--Sean Daly, Times pop music critic
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Watch it: 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, on ABC
The most popular, if vaguely depressive, Christmas special of all time was an instant success from its first airing in 1965. And let’s face it, it’s just not Christmas until you’ve watched it again. It’s got Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy score that opens with the melancholy Christmas Time Is Here; Charlie Brown ’s uniquely grown-up existential crisis; and one of the best dance sequences ever put on television (my personal favorite is the boy who dances like a zombie). It also contains a whole minute of Linus reading from the Bible. That alone makes this stand out in entertainment and gives this one its weight that no other special can match. But it’s also the characters, both moving and hilarious in their angst, that bring us back every year. Among those characters is a scrawny little tree that only Charlie loves — one that is today credited with practically eliminating the popularity of the aluminum Christmas trees of the 1960s, so thanks for that Charlie.
Classic Snoopy moment: Bossy Lucy gets Snoopy to show off impersonations. First a sheep, then a cow, a penguin and Lucy herself, which makes her so furious she gets a dog kiss. “I’ve got dog germs! Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!”
Favorite line: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” This shout of desperation comes from Charlie Brown after his scrawny little tree is brushed off as just another sign that he ruins everything.
Laugh factor? This one opts for emotion over the laughs, and the speech by Linus packs the biggest emotional wallop. His hint of a lisp combined with the eloquence of the Biblical text makes even the most cynical of souls misty.
—Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer
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