Media Scene

Like it or not, it’s your big year, Charlie Brown

It all works out in the end: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ celebrates its 50th year on ABC.
It all works out in the end: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ celebrates its 50th year on ABC. © 1965 United Feature Syndicate

Because this is 2015 and because “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted in 1965, this means it is an anniversary year – yes, 10 years since I wrote that disastrous column for Thanksgiving 2005 confessing how I dreaded the annual Peanuts special.

Just not my cup of eggnog, I was trying to say. Clearly underestimating the Charlie Brown-adoring public, I pitched it too hot.

“It’s a leaden downer, a pageant of sullen gloom, a sentimental trudge into what is, at best, good grief,” I wrote.

“Imbued with the Nordic fatalism of cartoonist Charles M. Schultz, the show features a musical score with all the zest of a funeral dirge. It is as uplifting as a layoff notice.”

This did not go over, as they say on Broadway. Cut-throat spies and Tony Romo, I came to realize, are but minor villains when compared with TV critics sour on holiday Peanuts specials. It did not go over at all.

It unleashed a tsunami of anti-Washburnism that had me starting the old Toyota each morning until about Easter of 2007 with a remote ignition control while cowering behind the sofa.

Learning from my wretched example, ABC has smartly planned a prime-time 50th anniversary special for the acclaimed program adored planetwide at 9 p.m. Monday.

Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”) will host “It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown” and be joined by A-list celebrities with only fond memories of the fabulous show throughout the half-century it has warmed hearts, spread understanding and blessed us all, (almost) every one.

Also in the what’s-new-is-old category this year is “The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special,” airing 8 p.m. Dec. 25 on CBS.

If I think it’s an absolute abomination to colorize black-and-white episodes of Mayberry classics, I’m certainly not going to mention it at Thanksgiving.

But that’s what the devils have done.

They’ve taken “The Christmas Story,” which originally aired Dec. 19, 1960, and “The Pickle Story,” which debuted Dec. 18, 1961, and cut them together as holiday grist.

In the first, Andy and Barney are planning a cozy holiday when the town Scrooge orders Andy to lock up and guard a moonshiner on Christmas. You know the pickle story – they taste like sweaty bowling balls and everyone’s too polite to tell Aunt Bea.

You may be the type that goes for that sort of thing. Or maybe not. Leave me out of it.

Here’s the rest of the holiday schedule:


“The National Dog Show” (noon, NBC): Hosted by John O’Hurley and analyst David Frei.

“Muppet Christmas Carol” (8 p.m., Lifetime): Muppets do Dickens.


“Crown for Christmas” (8 p.m., Hallmark): Nanny of princess gets involved with the king.

“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (8 p.m., CW): Novelty song comes to life.

“Home Alone” (8:30 p.m., AMC): Original Home Alone Christmas show.

“Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special” (9 p.m., CW): Kung Fu Panda gang celebrates.

“Merry Madagascar” (9:30 p.m., CW): Santa crashes on the island and the gang must pick up the reins.


“A Christmas Detour” (8 p.m., Hallmark): Boy meets girl stranded by snowstorm at Christmas.

“Frosty the Snowman” (8 p.m., CBS): Jimmy Durante narrates the fable.

“Frosty Returns” (8:30 p.m., CBS): Jonathan Winters narrates the sequel.

“Story of Santa Claus” (9 p.m., CBS): Ed Asner, Betty White and Tim Curry voice the genesis story of Santa.


“Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas” (8:30 p.m., Fox): “Ice Age” gang on the move for the holiday.


“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (8 p.m., ABC): Classic Peanuts special on the meaning of the holiday.

“It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown” (9 p.m., ABC): Kristen Bell hosts retrospective special with Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison, Sarah McLachlan, Boyz II Men, Pentatonix, David Benoit and the All-American Boys Chorus.

“Great Holiday Baking Show” (10 p.m., ABC): Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) and husband Ian Gomez host a competition of amateur bakers making holiday recipes.


“Polar Express” (7 p.m., ABC Family): Tom Hanks voices the role of conductor aboard a magical train bound for the North Pole.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (8 p.m., CBS): Burl Ives tells the story of the shy reindeer who rises to the occasion.

“Building off the Grid: North Pole” (10 p.m., DIY): North Pole, Alaska, mayor Bryce Ward and his team handcraft a remote family cabin in the wilderness.


“Christmas in Rockefeller Center” (8 p.m., NBC): Music and the lighting tree.

“Santa Clause” (8:45 p.m., ABC Family): Tim Allen as a divorced dad turned into Santa.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (9 p.m., NBC): Classic animated version with Boris Karloff.

“Christmas Through the Decades” (10 p.m., History): Features Jillian Michaels, Leann Rimes, Kenny Rogers and Dascha Polanco as they look at Christmas in the ’70s, the time of Pet Rocks.

Dec. 3

“Fred Claus” (8:15 p.m., ABC Family): Santa’s brother must step up to save the holiday.

“Shrek the Halls” (8:30 p.m., ABC): Friends try to un-grump the ogre.

“CMA Country Christmas” (9 p.m., ABC): Hosted by Jennifer Nettles with performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Mickey Guyton, Jewel, Charles Kelley, Martina McBride, David Nail, Nettles, Pentatonix, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker, Brian Setzer, Michael W. Smith and Lindsey Stirling.

Dec. 4

“A Very Murray Christmas,” (Netflix debut): Bill Murray frets no one will show up for his program because of snow. With George Clooney, Paul Shaffer, Amy Poehler, Michael Cera, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones.

“Elf” (9:30 p.m., ABC Family): Will Ferrell as an elf loose in New York.

Dec. 5

“Just in Time for Christmas” (8 p.m., Hallmark): Magic of a glimpse of Christmas future shows woman which career course to take, with Eloise Mumford, Michael Stahl-David, Christopher Lloyd and William Shatner.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (9:30 p.m., ABC Family): Jim Carey’s live-action version of the Dr. Seuss story.

Dec. 6

“Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge” (8 p.m., Hallmark): Two students find the future at a cozy coffee shop.

Dec. 8

“Pinocchio’s Christmas” (3 p.m., ABC Family): Pinocchio is conned out of money for Geppetto’s gift.

Dec. 9

“All-Star Holidays” (10 p.m., Food): Tips and recipes from Giada De Laurentiis, Ree Drummond, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, Nancy Fuller and Ina Garten.

“Christmas Through the Decades” (10 p.m., History): A look at the Christmas fads of the ’80s, including the Walkman and Cabbage Patch Kids.

Dec. 11

“Hollywood Christmas Parade” (8 p.m., CW): Buzz Aldrin is grand marshal.

“I’m Not Ready for Christmas” (10 p.m., Hallmark): A niece sets her aunt straight about lying with a Christmas wish.

Dec. 12

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (8 p.m., NBC): Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in story of magical redemption.

“Flight Before Christmas” (9 p.m., CBS): Niko must save his reindeer father and Christmas from the evil Black Wolf.

Dec. 13

“White House Christmas 2015” (6 p.m., HGTV): Genevieve Gorder hosts decorating show about the executive mansion.

Dec. 14

“Santa Clause 3: Escape Clause” (8:45 p.m., ABC Family): Jack Frost tries to seize the holiday.

“Tiny House Hunters” (10 p.m., HGTV): Decorating tiny spaces.

Dec. 16

“Christmas Through the Decades” (10 p.m., History): Christmas fads of the ’90s, including Tickle Me Elmo and Beanie Babies.

Dec. 17

“Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas” (8 p.m., NBC): Jim Parsons voices the animated role of Buddy, who goes to New York to meet the father he never knew he had.

“Disney’s Christmas Carol” (8:45 p.m., ABC Family): Mickey Mouse leads the cast in the Dickens classic.

“Prep & Landing” (6:30 p.m., ABC Family): Elves prepare homes for Santa.

“Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Night” (7 p.m., ABC Family): Someone tries to put everyone on the naughty list.

“Blake Shelton’s Not So Family Christmas” (10 p.m., NBC): Blake Shelton hosts a variety special with Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Miranda Lambert, Larry the Cable Guy, Jay Leno and Reba McEntire.

Dec. 18

“Yes Virginia” (8:30 p.m., ABC): Virginia O’Hanlon learns about Santa by writing a letter to the editor.

Dec. 19

“I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown” (8 p.m., ABC): Snoopy gets Linus’ brother to invite Spike for a visit.

“Melody & Mistletoe” (8 p.m., Hallmark): Mariah Carey as a music teacher who helps a new girl write a song for the Christmas show.

Dec. 21

“The Great Christmas Light Fight” (10 p.m., ABC): Neighbors try to outdecorate each other.

Dec. 23

“I Love Lucy Christmas Special” (8 p.m., CBS): Back-to-back colorized classic shows, “The Christmas Episode” and “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” (also known as “Vitameatavegamin”).

“How Murray Saved Christmas” (9 p.m., NBC): Jewish deli owner has to save the Christian holiday.

Dec. 24

“A Christmas Story” (8 p.m., TBS): Start of a 24-hour marathon of Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB gun story.

“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” (8 p.m., CW): Magoo as Scrooge.

Dec. 25

“Nightmare Before Christmas” (12:30 p.m., ABC Family): Tim Burton’s bizarre holiday-mixing tale.

“The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special” (8 p.m., CBS): Two classic episodes are colorized.