Monday, November 28, 2016
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS meets Mad Men
I'm re-posting this because it's always one of my most requested posts. And it's perfect for the upcoming holiday season.
A holiday tradition is A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and we pretty much have a Mad Man to thank for it. John Allen was a Don Draper at McCann-Erickson in the mid 60s. On behalf of Coca-Cola he was lobbying for Charlie Brown. It would be the first animated adaptation of Charles M. Schultz’s classic PEANUTS comic strip. But Allen had to really twist arms because in typical fashion, CBS hated it.
They thought the animation was awful, the story too thin and depressing, the jazz score inappropriate for kids, and of course wanted a laugh-track. I'm surprised they didn't require a laugh-track on THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
And CBS was especially opposed to Linus reciting the story of the birth of Christ from the Bible. What the hell is that doing in a Christmas Special?
Oh, and they didn’t like that children were doing the voices of the…uh, children. In other words, all the things that made it distinctive; all the things that made it great. One high-ranking CBS program executive/visionary said it was a “piece of shit”.
And CBS had a lot riding on this. It was going to pre-empt THE MUNSTERS and follow GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. The quality had to be top notch to join that pantheon of excellence.
But John Allen pushed and pushed and finally persuaded the reluctant program chief to air the special. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS premiered 51 years ago this month.
And got a 50 share.
It won an Emmy and a Peabody and became an instant holiday classic. I guess children doing the voices of children did not result in a viewer revolt.
CBS began running the special every year (taking credit for it of course). And it achieved the almost unheard of feat of getting higher ratings year after year. By 1969 it was scoring a 53 share.
CBS continued to air the special until 2000. ABC then took over. Don't know what channel it's on this year, but I'm sure someone is playing it tonight. Or you can go on Netflix or Hulu. I bet it gets a 50 share on Netflix too.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY CHARLIE BROWN.
And thanks to John Allen.