Charlie Brown officially turned 60 this year, and in that time he and the rest of the Peanuts gang have starred in over 50 TV specials. It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown kicked off what I like to refer to as the Peanuts Holiday Trinity, and of course we have the Valentine's Day and Easter specials, but what about the other 45 or so? Have you heard of or ever seen Why, Charlie Brown, Why?, What A Nightmare, Charlie Brown!, or It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown? It's about time some of the more unusual specials in the Peanuts collection deserve a little love - just like good ol' Chuck himself. Be forewarned: some of the themes featured in these forgotten gems include animal abuse, cancer, and bullying. Here's a look back at some of them...
It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984)
Sadly, unlike the Peanuts specials that focus on timeless annual holidays, Snoopy's Flashbeagle performance will most likely never be seen on TV again due to its definitive 1980s vibe. In case you couldn't guess, this program was inspired by the movie Flashdance by way of Saturday Night Fever and features a cover of the early 80s song Mickey. As predicted, Snoopy dons a headband and leg warmers a la Olivia Newton John to dance to a catchy song called Flashbeagle. However, one of the best reasons to see it is to hear the Peanuts gang sing The Pigpen Hoedown. It's guaranteed to stay in your noggin for at least 24 hours.
What A Nightmare, Charlie Brown! (1979)
Actually, this special should have been named What A Nightmare, Snoopy! because that's exactly what happens to our favorite pooch after he gorges himself on pizza and milkshakes. I definitely remember this Peanuts sequence as one of the scariest and most sinister ones that Charles Schulz stamped his approval on. After pigging out on the meal, Snoopy goes to sleep and has a horrific nightmare where he's part of a sled dog pack led by a cruel owner who whips the dogs and starves them. Poor Snoopy has a hard time fending for himself until he grows fangs, puffs his fur up, and fights back against his vicious sled mates. Towards the end of the dream, the sled dog master forces the pack over a lake full of melting ice. They all plunge into the water as Snoopy, who is now the lead sled dog, tries in vain to pull them up - or at least prevent himself from drowning. I swear, just watching the below sequence again on YouTube after all these years gave me the heebie jeebies!
Why, Charlie Brown, Why? (1990)
In this bummer of a Peanuts special, Linus struggles with life questions when a female classmate he is fond of is diagnosed with leukemia. Yeah, you heard that right. The girl's name is Janice and she describes the testing that was done to detect the disease and her resulting chemotherapy, which causes her long, blond hair to fall out. The show portrays Janice being bullied because of her bald head, and addresses the feelings that siblings of sick children often go through (Janice's sister is jealous of the gifts and attention that Janice has been receiving, prompting Linus to give her a present.) The program was inspired by a letter the American Cancer Society sent to Schulz, requesting a five-minute animated short that they could show to young cancer patients. Schulz expanded it into a half-hour program.
I really commend Schulz and the producers for making a cartoon that takes on a tough topic and aims it at young viewers. The following clip seriously choked me up a bit, but what's most disturbing about it is Lucy's callous and ignorant attitude towards Janice's illness - bitch seriously needs a slap in the mouth! "No thank you, I don't want to catch your crabbiness." You go, Linus!
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending: after several months of treatment Janice is able to go off of chemotherapy and reveals to Linus that her blond hair has grown back.
She's A Good Skate, Charlie Brown (1980)
If you still think of Peppermint Patty as a tomboy (or - cough - closet lesbian), this special gave her a chance to show off her more feminine side as she trains and participates in an ice skating competition. Who knew?
The best part is when Snoopy tries to fix the faulty tape player that has mangled Patty's music (I love the disgruntled sounds he makes and Marcie's "Relax, sir! Relax until they fix the music!"). Little Woodstock steps into action and saves the day by whistling O Mio Babbine Caro. Such multi-talented Peanuts characters!
It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (1977)
I've saved the best for last, because for once Charlie Brown gets what he deserves after all these years - respect, and a chance to kiss his number-one crush, the little red-haired girl, Heather, who has been voted homecoming queen. Sadly, he has no memory of anything that happened after the smooch (despite a very trippy vision of soaring above the clouds in sheer ecstasy), but Linus - who may or may not be fibbing - tells Charles that he was the life of the party by dancing (the hustle, the bump, and the chicken) with Heather and all of the girls in her court.
Did any of these jog your memory? Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, let me know!