Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Charlie Brown Specials made in the 90s Which Were Never Aired

Every year, the end of October marks the beginning of Charlie Brown special season. Starting with1966's 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown', the networks trot out both the well-known specials like the award-winning 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and lesser-known specials like 'Lucy must be traded, Charlie Brown' and 'He's A Bully, Charlie Brown', which are used to pad out the one-hour time slots. Specials like the too tied to the 80's 'It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown' are no longer shown, for obvious reasons.

There were actually several specials created during the 90s which were never aired, for reasons we'll discuss here. An incomplete list follows.

He's A Troll, Charlie Brown (1994) - When Charlie Brown discovers the newsgroup alt.support.childhood-hairloss, he at first is encouraged to find a community of people who can relate to his problems without being judgemental. Things quickly turn sour with the appearance of a troll on the newsgroup who mocks the 'bald blockheads'.

Why it was shelved: not enough people in focus groups were aware of Usenet at the time. Further, it was feared that the special might encourage people to behave irresponsibly on the new medium of the Internet.

It's A Black Thing, Charlie Brown, You Wouldn't Understand It (1991) - There's a new kid in school, the afrocentric 'Joe Militant' (voice: Professor Griff of Public Enemy). Franklin moves out of his peripheral token role and is the focus of this episode, as his self-esteem is boosted greatly by the study of the history and culture of his people.

Why it was shelved: Although it was considered well-done, apparently nobody involved in the production was aware of Professor Griff's infamous comment that 'Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world' until shortly before it was to be aired.

I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman, Charlie Brown (1998) - Peppermint Patty, who had resigned herself to being a D- student for the rest of her life, suddenly finds both her grades and outlook on life improved when a new teacher takes a special interest in her. But is the teacher interested in more than just her mind?

Why it was shelved: This special was not shelved so much for the subject matter, as several child psychologists who got a chance to see it agreed it dealt with a delicate subject in a careful and appropriate manner, but rather was a victim of bad timing as Bill Clinton uttered the now-famous phrase at the beginning of the Lewinsky scandal.

No Blood For Oil, Charlie Brown (1991) - The Persian Gulf War has everybody in the Peanuts gang taking sides, with Linus and Sally in favor of peace, and Lucy and Violet rallying to 'Support the Troops', but wishy-washy Charlie Brown can't make up his mind as to where he stands.

Why it was shelved: In stark contrast to Gulf War II, Gulf War I was over quickly, and by the time production was completed, America was back to 'Homey Don't Play That' and other frivolous concerns.

It Just Isn't Music, Charlie Brown (1993) - Inspired by Riot Grrrl bands like Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, Lucy, Violet, and the Little Red-Haired Girl (who is never shown, but is the drummer in the group) form their own band, Dog Germs. This sends Schroeder spiraling into depression and bitterness, as Dog Germs becomes very popular, but his hard work and dedication to Beethoven are ignored.

Why it was shelved: It was generally felt that this episode was too dark, even in the angst-and-depression soaked world of Charlie Brown.

You're Worth a Million on Paper, Charlie Brown (1999) - The whole gang gets rich beyond their wildest dreams when they join Lucy's Internet Start-up, coldHardCash.com, a 'cash portal' which nobody really understands or can explain. The fact that nobody knows any programming languages is not a problem, as Linus is very good at getting venture capitalists to put money behind the idea. Meanwhile, Snoopy day-trades his way to such wealth that he is able to afford a doghouse that actually does fly.

Why it was shelved: Nobody really asked Charles Schulz what he thought of this idea until very late in production. It is said that the usually peaceful and patient Schulz broke a hockey stick over Bill Melendez's head on hearing about a special that reduced his creations to 'soul-less, greedy, materialistic twits'.

There were many other specials like this, reminding us that for every fully-realized creative effort, there are thousands of scrapped or failed efforts. So the moral is of this posting is: stay in school.

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