TV Club: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown & Our Last TV Club

Given yesterday was the magnificent holiday of Halloween, the TV Club decided a good treat would be to comment on the classic children's holiday special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Jef, Pete and myself were then given a nice "trick" from our editor in the form of - "hey, summer is so far from over, why are you still writing this summer television club thing?" And we said, "Ha, good trick. Now give us some candy." And then we were told, "no... this is not a trick at all."

This column has seen its day (for now).

So, sadly, this will be our last post in the TV Club for the time being. It's about time; we've had a good run (aside from all those British shows). We thank you for participating with us every week (all five of you) and for your excellent television viewing suggestions. We tried to keep our choices varied and our commentary pointless; we hope you enjoyed some of it.

But anyway... on to that blockhead Charlie Brown and his Peanut gang cohorts. If you are not American and have never seen the Charlie Brown Halloween special, I will give you the dirty details.

It's Halloween. Young Linus foolishly believes that on Halloween a mythical creature named "The Great Pumpkin" will fly over to a pumpkin patch of his choosing and leave presents and treats for those that believe in him most. The other kids laugh -- apparently Linus does this every year without much luck - and go about their Halloween fun. Does the Great Pumpkin ever come, you ask? C'mon; what do you think?

ABBY: Linus is probably seven maybe eight, where did he get this idea from if he is the only kid in the neighborhood who believes in the Great Pumpkin?

JEF: I don't know... when I was eight I was convinced a shark lived in the levee near my house even though that is stupid. Personally, all of Linus' weird superstitions sounded to me like he was internally processing a destructive religion at home.

PETE: It's funny you say that, because in Peanuts, Linus was the resident theologian. He seemed the least likely to offer Sally up as sacrifice to a malign woodland spirit.

That's why he lured her out there, right?

ABBY: Tying into that question, we are led to believe that he does this every year without luck. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Can we call him insane?

JEF: We can call him devout. Make of that what you like.

PETE: Well, that's what was so insidious about the Great Pumpkin: if he didn't show up, it's because *your* faith was lacking. Therefore the only thing to do was to try harder next year. It's kind of like being an Astros fan.

ABBY: Charlie Brown is such a depressing character. Even when the focus is on Linus boarding the crazy-town bus, CB still gets the shaft. He's not a bad guy; he's just awkward. Why does everyone hate him so much?

JEF: Because he's awkward. He's a pink monkey in a cage full of brown monkeys. Who is he is really immaterial. What other kids see in Charlie Brown is someone who life is going to kick anyway, so they might as well get a few in at the same time. It's nothing personal; we're all just needlessly cruel and evil... like editors that cut writers' favorite columns.

PETE: Because he's bald. It's a pity he didn't come of age in the modern era, where the follicular challenged simply shave their heads. He'd have been viewed as a trendsetter.

ABBY: Do we all agree that Lucy is a bitch? Or is she brilliant? She does go and drags her brother out of the patch at the end of the cartoon. Maybe she's not so bad after all?

JEF: Lucy is a bitch, no doubt, and she's more worried about how embarrassing having Linus around truly is. She's certainly capable of doing good things, I think, but she's always going to be the kind of person who parks her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle to look, you know?

PETE: I don't know that it's fair to characterize Lucy as a bitch. She's the only leader in a group of largely neglected kids (parents/adults are never depicted, and teachers speak in gibberish), and - being a child - naturally oversteps the bounds on occasion. I think going out to the pumpkin patch at three in the freaking morning (seriously, were they raised by the meth couple from Breaking Bad?) shows she's a decent person at heart.

ABBY: The Peanuts Halloween costumes all seem to be some variation of a ghost; it's a ghost, ghost witch, ghost monster, not all that inventive. What did you guys dress up as this year? My husband and I were going to go to a party as Sharon Tate and Charles Manson, which I thought would be highly inappropriate given my pregnancy - but we chickened out.

JEF: I went as Charles Manson one year! My friend Kat had a blasphemy-themed Christmas/Halloween party and I said he counted as a false prophet. I let my beard grow, carved a latex swastika in my head, wore a prison jumpsuit with his actual prisoner number on it, and mimicked his voice after listening to hours of interviews. Two girls showed up as Manson girls completely by coincidence so it worked out well. Then I posed with two wizards as the three Wise Man and Kat as Jesus in a twisted version of the manger scene.

Man, that was an awesome party!

PETE: I was Wreck-It Ralph, which is topical enough for my kids because they didn't see the movie until this year. I'm more bummed they don't let me decide their costumes anymore. That year we all went as luchadores was great.

ABBY: Why do people even have rocks in their homes to give Charlie Brown in lieu of candy? They are just keeping rocks around for that one loser kid with too many holes in his ghost costume?

JEF: Maybe they hold onto them as part of the upcoming murderous harvest ritual?

PETE: Probably because it's been passed down from generation to generation as the only way to defend yourself against a Great Pumpkin attack. ABBY: What is the best candy you got on Halloween and the worst? I used to be quite partial to 3 Musketeers or Bottle Caps. My old lady neighbor used to give pennies in a sandwich bag. That house sucked!

JEF: Well, I liked Pixie Stix until that asshole put arsenic in them and murdered his kid. From then on, no more Pixie Stix.

PETE: The houses to avoid where the ones that screwed you by giving individual Jolly Ranchers or those shitty black and orange wrapped atrocities. I dug Butterfingers and Snickers.

ABBY: Linus keeps referring to the Great P. coming to the "most sincere" pumpkin patch. What makes a sincere pumpkin patch in your mind?

JEF: He means least commercial. If you watch all of the Peanuts specials over and over again my theory about a destructive religious home-life sort of like Carrie really holds. Linus is always looking for a way to channel a pure spiritual belief, but is obviously wounded deeply by some sort of hurtful dogma. I bet he goes all Wicca in college.

PETE: Back when this came out (1966! It's older than me!), the sincerity thing was probably a straightforward concept. In the inevitable remake (with Jaden Smith as the voice of Linus), I'm sure we'll see pumpkins with sponsor patches all over them like NASCAR vehicles.

ABBY: The kids all go to Violet's for a Halloween shin-dig that involves dunking for apples. Never done it before. You guys? It's seems completely un-fun to me.

JEF: You're just afraid it's a witch test you'll fail.

PETE: Kids had to amuse themselves somehow before the advent of video games, Withonef. The party we went to last weekend had apple dunking. Not one kid had any idea what they were supposed to do. When it was explained to them, they were all hilariously horrified.

ABBY: Let's talk about Snoopy as the World War I flying ace. This is an interesting subplot. I see it as a social commentary on the horrors of Halloween and its impact on society as a consensus narrative pertaining to death and destruction. Nah. I just think it's random. You guys?

JEF: Am I the only one that thinks the whole Red Baron thing is stupid? You're right, it's completely random and it never really has any impact on anything. It's like Andy Dick if he was a cartoon dog. It's still better than Flash Beagle.

PETE: It isn't completely random. I'm sure it was more apparent to the original audience, but Snoopy constantly fought the Red Baron in the comic strip ... and usually got his ass handed to him. Shit, the first album I ever owned was Snoopy vs. the Red Baron by the Royal Guardsmen.

ABBY: All right - if you knew that if you stayed all night at a pumpkin patch, keeping a silent vigil that you would be rewarded with candy and toys while all of your friends went trick or treating, would you?

JEF: No, because I've read the Wikipedia entry on cargo cults and I know that this will all end badly.

PETE: That's not very sincere. The trick is staying in the pumpkin patch and knowing you may get nothing. So no, I'd go trick or treating.

ABBY: Best Halloween memory? One year I dressed up as an angel and I even made my wings out of cardboard and silver paint and I got egged by some teenagers (I must have been 8 or 10) and then before I could even cry, the kid came over and said that he was sorry and thought I was someone else. You thought there was another 8-year old angel in shitty homemade wings walking around your neighborhood?

JEF: ... how come all your "fun" stories are terrifying?

When I was a kid we built a haunted house and it was awesome. My cousins were mad scientists stabbing cauliflower brains, I was a vampire swooping in and dragging of a plant, we had mummies and everything. It kicked SO much ass. If I ever buy a house, that's the only reason why.

PETE: There are tons: making it back from the Stewart/Colbert rally in DC just in time to take the kids trick-or-treating was a good one, or dressing my twins in their first costumes (yin and yang). I'm still fond of the year (1978?) I went as Ace Frehley from KISS, however.

This has been fun! Hopefully, you enjoyed at least some of it and perhaps we'll be back next summer to watch more of the boob tube with you.

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