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Charlie Brown season arrives

by By The (Tampa Bay, Fla.) Times on October 31, 2013 10:50 AM

With the first of the big three seasonal Peanuts episodes airing today, we started a friendly squabble in the entertainment pod: Which classic is the best? (Take our poll at tampabay. com/blogs/media.)

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (1966)

Watch it: 8 p.m. today on ABC

The gang’s classic Halloween episode kicks it all off, and rightfully so: It’s clearly the best of the three. Sure, the Christmas one has the snow 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 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: Date and time TBD

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 bleakness that Patty, Marcie and Franklin have nowhere to go on Thanksgiving, 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: Date and time TBD

It’s just not Christmas until you’ve watched this special again. From the first melancholy chord of Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” as cartoon snow falls, to Charlie Brown’s uniquely grown-up existential crisis to one of the best dance sequences ever on TV — it perfectly sets the bittersweet mood of the holidays. It’s the characters, both moving and hilarious in their angst, that bring us back every year, the best one being a scrawny little tree that only Charlie loves. That tree is today credited with practically eliminating 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?” A shout of desperation from Charlie Brown after his puny tree is brushed off as another sign that he ruins everything.

Laugh factor? This one opts for emotion over laughs, and Linus’ speech from the Gospel of Luke packs the biggest wallop. His hint of a lisp combined with the eloquence of the text makes even the most cynical of souls misty.

— Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writer

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