tv specials

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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The Biggest Night in Music…or Something Like That

If you watched the Grammy Awards last night, I’m sure the one question running through your mind is “Was there anything Sam Smith didn’t win?” The answer is surprisingly “Yes!” no matter how you look at it. Sure you can say he didn’t win a Grammy for every category, but he wasn’t nominated for every category. However, he also did not win in every category he was nominated for (Pharrell won with “Happy” for Best Pop Performance), although it sure seemed like he did.

Anyway, I originally had planned to do a Grammy Awards recap today but then right before the show started last night I realized I really didn’t care to watch it. Prior to this I saw three of the categories I cared about were already awarded. Best Rock Performance went to Jack White for “Lazaretto”, Best Rock Song went to Paramore for “Ain’t It Fun” and Best Alternative Album went to St. Vincent for her self-titled album (see you at Coachella Jack and Annie!). After that I only cared if The Black Keys won Best Rock Album or if Haim won Best New Artist. Neither did. So there wasn’t much else for me to see. The performances weren’t my cup of tea nor were the other categories. I might have been mildly interested to see if Taylor Swift won anything for “Shake It Off”. That song may be a guilty pleasure of mine but I will not confirm or deny that (she didn’t win at all). Still, that was something I could wait to find out later without watching the show.

So I barely watched the Grammys. Instead it got me thinking, “Why do people watch the Grammys? Why are they so special? Heck, why do people watch any award shows and what makes some more important or better than others?” So I did some research and decided to answer those questions here.

First “Why do people watch the Grammys?” and “Why are they so special?” Well to give an answer to both of these questions at once (sorta) is because the Grammys are the oldest and most prestigious awards in music. The show started in the late 50’s and has continued until this point. So that’s why they’re special and I think part of why people watch. Another reason I think people watch is because they want to see if their favorite artists receive a major achievement. I’m sure some people watch to see the performances and drama that occurs with a live award show. There’s probably people that watch just so they can feel included to talk about the show the next day at work or school. Then there’s the people who watch for the fashion. There’s probably other reasons too, but I think those are some of the big ones.

I guess the same can be said for why people watch any awards shows. They care about what the show celebrates whether it’s music, tv, movies, etc., or they care about fashion and pop culture, or they just watch it for pure entertainment. What makes some award shows better than others? Well I think like I said before is how old they are and how prestigious they are deemed by society.

That’s the thing though. The Grammy Awards (probably other award shows too) were criticized plenty of times for just being some big spectacle that celebrates the music industry, caters to people for entertainment, and is less about the actual music than they want you to believe. Like many things in our culture, award shows get blown out of proportion. It’s society that makes us believe that awards are important and certain awards are more important than others. That goes for anything. I guess it’s the case that people need to feel validated sometimes and awards help with that. But I think it’s important for those receiving awards to feel validated no matter what, like the people who make music purely to make music by expressing themselves and creating a beautiful compilation of sound. There’s validation in just being able to make music. One of my favorite Grammy moments of all time happened when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver won two Grammys in 2012 for Bon Iver, Bon Iver and Best New Artist (he wasn’t new at the time but we’ll let that slide). Through his acceptance speech he basically indicated that the awards meant so little compared to the music which was so much more important. I’ve always respected musicians like that who put the music first. It is what’s most important. Awards are just an added bonus.

So I think it’s important for those of us that actually care about what the awards are for to remember what is really important about them. Hell, even if you care about the fashion or the water cooler discussion the next day it’s important to know the real reason for having an award show. Music, television, movies, etc. are all forms of art. They’re beautiful creations of tremendous amounts of work that have been shared with us. That is what is so incredible about them. That is what is most important.