When ABC aired “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Monday night, the beloved holiday special came with all the trimmings.
So much was trimmed from the show, in fact, that miffed fans were comparing notes and commiserating over what classic moments had gone AWOL. Viewers said that cherished scenes involving Sally, Shermie, Lucy and Shroeder (among other footage) were cut — suddenly and eerily missing like a phantom tree-limb.
As “judy181” wrote in a comment to Comic Riffs: ABC “cut the heck out of it.”
Peanuts Worldwide, the company that shepherds all things Charlie Brown and Snoopy, confirmed to Comic Riffs on Tuesday morning that the Emmy-winning special was edited down to come in at about 22 minutes — the available running time once you account for ads.
That’s right: The heartwarming special that sounds a clarion call against the overcommercialization of Christmas had once again fallen prey to too many commercials at Christmas.
For fans of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” who experienced a similar trimming in 2009, it was deja-view all over again.
Part of this, naturally, is the reality of the time — and the times. Mendelson Productions — longtime producer of the “Peanuts” specials — tells Comic Riffs that ABC’s half-hour slot consists of “21.5 minutes of content [and] 8.5 minutes of commercials.”
When it airs in its entirety, though, the full running time of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is just under 25.5 minutes. So some wintry scenes must be tossed like a sharply aimed snowball. And ABC sticks to this tight schedule when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is paired with a piggyback airing of Disney’s “Prep & Landing 2.”
Yet as a viewer who has watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” my entire life, I relish the rhythms and precise pacing and flow of a show that my muscle-memory knows by heart. Deleting a key scene is like cutting a chorus from a musical masterwork, and my immersion into the work is disturbed by the curious and nagging absence.
As crafted by Charles Schulz (and directed by Bill Melendez), “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a tone-poem on the season. Yet if you would not monkey with a performance of Mendelssohn, why would you dare do so to a Mendelson?
So in terms of TV programming, O networks, my simple Christmas wish is this: Please don’t cut my “Charlie Brown Christmas.” Take a little off my Rudolph, if you must, or melt down a scene or two from my animated Frosty. If Yukon Cornelius or Burl Ives needs a shave, I’ll complicitly understand. Why, I might even tolerate your carving up another ‘60s-sprung classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” like so much roast beast. But trimming the special that rails against commercialization for commercials is the unkindest cut of all.
Like its trademark scraggly tree, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” needs to be appreciated for its full greatness. So please, put down the chainsaw.
Fortunately, on Dec. 15, ABC will air “A Charlie Brown Christmas” again this season — in its inspiring entirety. The special will air as part of a one-hour block with the special “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales” (8-9 p.m. Eastern).
Offering viewers the gift they want as you respect the artistry and achievement of a brilliant and beloved classic:
That’s the true meaning of Christmastime TV, Charlie Brown.
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