There is no time in my life that I don’t remember “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It’s always been there, every year. I first watched it sitting on my dad’s lap, back when my two brothers and I were small enough to all fit in one La-Z-Boy with him–one kid in the nook beside each armrest and one kid in the middle.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” turns 40 this year… It’s been around so long, I’ve never bothered to think about what made it a classic–what differentiates it from a thousand other tales of animated giving and golden rules and striped-y stockings with silver bell soundtracks. But in 1965, execs thought the show was “defiantly different.”
When CBS bigwigs saw a rough cut of A Charlie Brown Christmas in November 1965, they hated it.
“They said it was slow,” executive producer Lee Mendelson remembers with a laugh. There were concerns that the show was almost defiantly different: There was no laugh track, real children provided the voices, and there was a swinging score by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi.
Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez fretted about the insistence by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz that his first-ever TV spinoff end with a reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke by a lisping little boy named Linus.
“We told Schulz, ‘Look, you can’t read from the Bible on network television,’ ” Mendelson says. “When we finished the show and watched it, Melendez and I looked at each other and I said, ‘We’ve ruined Charlie Brown.’ “
Good grief, were they wrong. The first broadcast was watched by almost 50% of the nation’s viewers. “When I started reading the reviews, I was absolutely shocked,” says Melendez, 89. “They actually liked it!”
Read more HERE.
Read the USAToday article HERE.