As a holiday purist, I feel the need to be entertained by the classics this of year. Traditionally, I have found it comforting to engage in YuleTube type cheer. Every year I sit on the edge of my seat hoping that little star can make his way to the top of the Christmas Tree and I tear up as the tree lends a branch to help its celestial friend. I go a wassailing, humming my favorite carol, The "12 Days of Christmas," PA Lottery style. “Five Cash Five!” I sniff and get a warm fuzzy when Peter makes it home for Christmas and makes Folgers coffee for his family.
And as that purist I feel it necessary to indoctrinate my daughter in the ways of winter watching and sat down with her last night to watch my annual favorite, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Now, I own the classic on DVD, along with The Great Pumpkin, but there is something about watching it when it comes on television, complete with commercials. Even though I recorded it and watched it later that night, it’s still holds the same effect.
So, there we are, the happy family, all snuggled up on the blanket spread out on the floor this December 8th, 2009. The lights in the house are all off, except for the tree. As we sit there, we all share in a little bit of eggnog to make the season bright. The opening comes on and I am six years old again. I am the kind of person that will sit and watch, intently. My eyes rarely blink or leave focus from the set. It’s hard to hold a conversation with me during this event and don’t ask me to take out the trash. I am in the zone.
Unfortunately, with parenthood comes inevitable and constant distraction. I have learned to leave the zone to take care of business, should it arise. The cats wrestling under the tree interrupts you or the child spills a bit of eggnog on her pajamas. In any case, even though I have seen the show hundreds of times, I can tell you what will happen next. Even with my distracted state I picked up on something strange. “Hey, how come Charlie Brown didn’t press Violet about not getting a Christmas card?” "Why aren't they eating snowflakes?" “Where was Sally’s letter to Santa, ‘10s and 20s’?” “Did Shermy not get repeatedly cast as a shepherd in every play? And where was the scene where Schroeder bangs out Jingle Bells, on his toy piano, one note at a time to a unconvinced Lucy?”
My wife wondered the same thing, ultimately revealing that she does in fact pay attention and can recall the show even though she thinks I am a dork for continually watching it. I backed up the DVR and reviewed key moments of the show and indeed those scenes were missing. WTF?* (mandatory quota for txt speak reached)
I then checked the wire for news about this atrocity. As I scour the Internet for clues I question the reasons for this meatball surgical approach to a holiday institution. Usually, when something is aired on television you have make exceptions for editing. It’s unavoidable. This is not however acceptable in the case of say G4 airing a butchered version of The Goonies or this particular childhood classic. You do not mess with Charlie Brown. Although, my wife and I both admit that we are somewhat jaded because we cannot help but remember an SNL skit where the TV Funhouse animated shorts lampooned A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was hysterical but has destroyed one of my childhood innocent childhood moments. IMDB highlighted the same discourse I had with the network over the airing. Wikipedia even called out the scenes in question, confirming my assessment of the travesty. What I didn’t realize was that even the tracks were screwed up as Charlie Brown mouths the words, “That’s it!” during the therapy session before the audio cue comes up. One could toss this recognition away at the limited animation quality of the 1965, but us geeks know our shit and we are pissed!
I found out that the reason for this butchering of my childhood was to make room for Disney’s new special Prep and Landing…of course we all know that Disney owns ABC and this was purely a business decision and mockery of that which A Charlie Brown Christmas tries to satirize, commercialism at Christmas. One need look further than the commercials aired throughout the special enticing children to go see Disney’s new animated movie, The Princess and the Frog. Disney is in that pantheon of evil alongside Walmart and other corporate demons. If the sale of NBC goes through, Comcast will join that table of sin and soon the ruination of television will be all but complete.
I feel personally slighted by this attack on my nostalgic memories of days when you could come in from playing in the cold snow, warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, with extra marshmallows, and watch the special. I know that in the past there has been several aired versions of the special, including ones that also mocked the show’s message on commercialism with ad placement by Coca Cola and Dolly Madison along with removing references to commercialism altogether. But in the past few years, I had hoped that we have gained a sense of preservation and have gone back to showing the classic in its entirety. I guess not. I guess ABC will have to forgo my viewership so that I can watch the special as it was intended, on a shiny disc in digital format.
What’s next for ABC? We all know they air The Ten Commandments right before Easter. This usually pisses off my wife who looks forward to watching the 11:00 news at, um 11:00. I don’t know it just seems right to watch it at the same time as it’s called. So, how about airing an edited version in 2010, cutting it down a few hours. Perhaps we can get rid of the more banal commandments like this whole coveting business and calling out God as our Lord. I think it’s and understood relationship. We pretty much know who he is without a formal announcement. This of course will still preempt the news because of the piggybacking of Disney’s new special on ABC, immediately following and called, Jesus Colors An Egg.
Really ABC, was it worth it? Do you feel good about this move? Of course you do. That’s what Christmas is all about. For shame.