christmas television

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Every year for the last 50 years A Charlie Brown Christmas has aired on television during the holiday season. A few weeks ago, a special celebrating the annual Christmas show aired on ABC. I guess I should have written about A Charlie Brown Christmas that week, but I figured since Christmas in is in a few days it might be nice to get in the spirit this week.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is based on the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz. It first debuted on December 9, 1965 on CBS. It was produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez. In the show, the main character, Charlie Brown, is very depressed during the Christmas season. When fellow Peanut and friend Lucy suggests that he should direct the annual school Christmas play, Charlie Brown decides to go for it since it might be a good way to help him combat his holiday blues. Upon taking the directing role, Charlie Brown finds himself disrespected and ignored by his peers. It takes a little reminder from his friend Linus to get into the spirit of Christmas and remember the true meaning of the season.

The special was created in only six months on a very small budget and was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. They also cast child actors to voice the characters in a move that was seemingly unconventional at the time. Another unconventional move by the creators was having a jazz score performed by Vince Guaraldi and an absence of a laugh track (the standard for animated programs at the time). Although it was unsure how the special would be received by the public, A Charlie Brown Christmas had much success. Along with the annual airing of the show, it also received both an Emmy and a Peabody Award. The soundtrack has gone triple platinum in the U.S. as well.

I can’t really remember when I was introduced to the Peanuts and A Charlie Brown Christmas in particular because I always watched it growing up. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had the special on a VHS tape to watch whenever I wanted to. My mother was and still is a big Peanuts fan, so much so, that she owns plenty of Peanuts merchandise and watches the Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween specials every year. This is why it seems that all of the Peanuts holiday specials have been a staple in my life for a very long time.

I tuned in a few weeks ago to watch the 50th Anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC and I learned a lot about the show. Most, if not all, of what I wrote in the blog today was info I learned from the special. I’m sure many others learned a lot about A Charlie Brown Christmas that day as well. For a lot people, watching the show is a holiday tradition. Families gather around the TV every year to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and subsequently, pass it on future generations. I actually just watched it with my four year old cousin over the weekend. The jazz score more commonly know as “Linus & Lucy” plays on radio stations and playlists throughout the Christmas season as well. There’s no doubt in my mind that most people can hum the famous tune if asked. Though Charlie Brown complains of the commercialization of Christmas in the famed Christmas show, it is much more commercialized today. A Charlie Brown Christmas reminds us every year through all the hustle and bustle that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and promotes peace on earth and goodwill towards men (and women!). And that’s what Christmas is about Charlie Brown! *cue “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”*

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California Here We Come

I’ve been such a slacker in the last week and half by not updating this blog. I’ve been busy though. It’s a busy time of the year. You know, Christmas time, when everyone does at least one thousand and one extra things besides all the things they do on a normal basis. Secondly, I haven’t been able to come up with a good subject matter for the next post (obviously I finally have but we’ll get to that).

I guess I could’ve taken the easy way out and wrote about Christmas music or Christmas movies, but I’ve been lacking Christmas spirit for the past 2 years. I’ve had no desire to watch A Christmas Story or listen to Bayside’s cover of Angels We Have Heard On High or anything like that. In fact I haven’t really had any desire to involve myself with anything Christmas-y until last night when I was wrapping gifts (I consider gift wrapping as something you have to do..it’s not really a choice unless you want your loved ones to hate you) and realized it was the first night of Hanukkah. Then I knew exactly what to write about. Christmas episodes. More specifically Chrismukkah. But even more specific than that, The OC.

Like any TV show I have fallen absolutely in love with, I started watching The OC during it’s second season. The first episode of Season 1 aired back in August of 2003, but I started watching it in 2004 and it’s been one of my all time favorite television shows ever since. I just made it sound like it’s still on, but it’s not. It lasted a total of four seasons ending in 2007. In my opinion and I’m sure other viewers can agree, the show really died after Season 3 along with one of its main characters (no spoilers…promise).

The OC was a drama set in Newport Beach, CA and followed the fictional lives of teenagers, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), and their affluent families through their interesting and eventful life challenges. That’s kind of a poor description of what the show’s about, but if I told you the show begins when lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) decides to help his teenage client who lived a pretty tough life growing up in Chino, CA (Ryan) by taking the boy in to live with him and his family in his huge home in Newport Beach then maybe you’d have a slightly better idea of the show. But maybe not, cause I really didn’t mention much about Seth, Marissa, and Summer.

Seth is Sandy’s nerdy, comic book/indie music loving son and eventually becomes like a brother to Ryan as he helps him adjust to his new school, with girls, and all the other fun that comes along with living with a well-off family in the OC. Marissa aka “Coop” (Summer’s nickname for her) lives next to the Cohens and becomes the love interest of Ryan shortly into the series, but she also has a multitude of issues in her own life which play a factor in their roller coaster of a relationship. Summer is the long-time crush of Seth and also Marissa’s best friend.

Now you’ve got a better idea of the whole thing, but if not you can always watch to find out more (wink wink). In general though the show covered all sorts of teen and life issues in it’s 4 seasons of existence, but it also had a yearly tradition of including what fans would look forward to around the holidays, a Chrismukkah episode. Chrismukkah was a hybrid holiday created by Seth that combined both  Christmas and Hanukkah and involved both sides of his family’s’ holiday traditions (Sandy was Jewish and Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), Seth’s mom, was Christian). To quote Seth’s description Chrismukkah is “eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents,” and it left fans, myself included, wanting to take part in this epic celebration. It was so epic that even though it’s been 8 years since the last Chrismukkah episode aired, I still wished I had another one to watch last night (first glimmer of any Christmas spirit this year for me). In fact, if I have time, I may even try to watch a Chrismukkah episode in the next few days.

Besides Chrismukkah, the OC was incredibly important to the indie music scene of the early 00’s. Along with soundtracks for each season which had indie songs that were featured on the show, it also included episodes where bands like, The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, The Subways, etc. played a few “live” sets at the local hangout/venue, The Bait Shop, which debuted in the second season. Plus, Seth was the coolest, nerdy, indie kid you’d ever want to meet, and I don’t think Phantom Planet ever had a better or more well-known song than “California” (the theme song for The OC). The show really did a lot for those bands and indie music from the exposure it gave. Although this post isn’t really about music, I do recommend checking out the track listing for The OC soundtracks and giving some of those songs a listen, especially “California” if you can’t already hum those all too familiar opening notes.

Along with Laguna Beach, The OC was one of my favorite television shows while in high school. It was actually one of the first shows I would watch religiously as new episodes came out every Thursday on Fox. And like Laguna Beach, it played a role in creating my desire to visit Southern California. It was the show that initially made me want to visit SoCal and then watching Laguna just added to it (naturally I visited Newport Beach on my trip to California last year as well).

It really is unfortunate that The OC ended when it did. To me it feels like something that was gone too soon, but I guess if you saw the 4th season you knew it was inevitable. Luckily I received the 4 seasons of The OC as Christmas gifts every year as they came out from my grandpa and I can watch the old episodes any time. I think they’re available on Netflix as well for anyone wanting to check it out. If not there, then I’m sure you can find them online somewhere. Since it’s one of my all time favorite shows I’m gonna have to say that you should check it out no matter what, but especially if you’re in the mood for some Christmas and Hanukkah themed entertainment in the next week or so (watch one of the Chrismukkah eps!). Captain Oats would want you to (if you don’t know who that is then you better watch the show). Anyway, Merry Chrismukkah from me and the Cohens and I’ll leave you with a wonderful description of the holiday from Season 1 by the man himself, Seth Cohen.