Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sonic Youth and Little Feat in Arkansas

While it can't hold a Richter to my Snoopy collection, my lovingly-amassed Sonic Youth memorabilia still stands a formidable pile o' crap in itself--it contains, for instance, what is surely one of the largest displays of SY printed matter owned by a single person (as is consistent with the letterlust in the soul of its tender).

My favorite scrap of Sonic sundry is actually a poster: the classic one that came in the Daydream Nation vinyl box set way back when. Against the unbeatable red backdrop--the very pulse of life itself--stands Thurston's mighty Drifter, a gutted and slutted guit rewired with bass strings, all the more better to fuck with drumsticks, my dear. The stick jammed between the fretboard and strings is actually a joke on the part of Lee Ranaldo. While the implement itself is real, let it be known that Steve Shelley has never used personalized skinslappers.

Best of all, though, is the 1988 tour itinerary. The Youth are traversing America from East to West to South to East, across several months at a time of the year that is not summer. As well as hitting up the cities every schlumbnutted racket-gang marks for death, SY also will be playing in places that, 20 years later, they avoid like a lard'n'cheese sandwich: Madison, Wisconsin. Santa Clara, CA. Tusca-goddamn-loosa. The entire state of Florida.

While the band will likely not be doing a full-scale tour as they prepare their new album this year, Sonic Youth are still doing dates here and there. One such announced is the Dickson Street Music Festival in Arkansas, where SY will headline the second date on April 26th.

There are many great things about this. Sonic Youth have, per the indispensable Concert Chronology featured on their website, never played the state of Arkansas. So you have the novelty factor (although this may inspire someone to emerge from the ethernet and email Chris L. a long-ass, poorly-punctuated single paragraph story about how Sonic Youth not only played Arkansas back in 1985, the show was held in some two-bit weed dealers piss-reeking basement and Thurston Moore gobbled mad acid and then chased it with Flinstones Vitamins before they started up and then fell asleep on stage during "I Love Her All the Time" but the cool thing was he woke right the fuck back up just in time to sing the last part!).

We are also dealing with the reality that Little Feat, a funkin' country-roll band once feared/respected by the likes of Jimmy Page, will be playing immediately before them. There is a very real possibility that SY may be outshone by a 18-minute jam on "Lonesome Loser". There is an even greater chance that Thurston Moore will dedicate a song to "the righteous dudes in Little Feat. This one's for them, dudes." All the SY fans in the crowd will expect something rare to mark the imperial occasion, oh raw power, I can feel it! Then the band goes into "Turquoise Boy".

The downside? It's another goddamn festival gig. It's been over a year since I've seen the Youth in a club, and that was in fucking Milwaukee, stuffed to the gills with alcoholics who didn't even the decency to ruin their livers with beer that wouldn't be spat out by a pig. Furthermore, April 26th is the date my mother leaves on a jet plane to visit her hometown in Kentucky, where she will stay for two weeks. I really should be there to see her off, considering all that she's done for me. Like that whole letting me be born thing, which, occasional dips in the existential kiddie pool aside, I am grateful for.

I think I'll wait, and Patrick the Reliably Sensible concurs. Most likely we will end up seeing them at a New York date or two. I may even hit my 40th Youth gig this year.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Peanuts Is Timeless, Pt. Is February Over Yet?

How can the shortest month of the year seem so perdurable? You know it's bad when I'm pulling words like that out of my butt.

This cartoon makes the Charlie Brown/steroids one I linked last week look positively Larson-esque.

I have never heard one note of the Owls music, but this interview alone has made me curious. If it sucks, well, at least they have good choice in heroes.

"How come you can talk to me? I notice you have no trouble talking to me!"

I want to learn!

Okay, now we have reached the inevitable moment in all these PIT roundups where it hits us once again. Is the Charlie Brown and Lucy football gag too legendary, too pithily perfect a comment on the nature of humanity to ever fall out of fashion as a reference...or are people unimaginative?

As per usual, I found more than a few politically-themed articles that dropped the ball gag, including a P. J. O'Rourke piece. Most interestingly is its appearance amid a debate (which is itself worth the read; Barack Obama has a serious flaw with his views on the housing market. I don't know how many of you care about that, but you should calm down, breathe, and start to see that while he may be the best option for Commander in Chief, he is not Willy Wonka come to pass out golden tickets.)

The football refs do extend into other realms of life, however, such as computer technology and--most stunningly--sports. Leave it to a forum devoted to the wretched, base, Evil Dead horror that is Duke basketball to somehow fuck up the reference though.

Time will tell whether this is another Charlie Brown kicking the football away from Lucy experience or not,
Time can save its breath. Just more Duke brilliance, it infests the whole state. I can hear "Coach K" now, pre-game: "You guys gotta go out there and play to win! Just like Charlie Brown! He always went out there with his blanket, cloud of dust everywhere, and kicked that football for a grand slam!"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

New B-52s Song Does Not Suck

In fact, the title track of their forthcoming album is demonstrably better than "oh, that's cool, I can't believe they're still around."

Moments that make me, almost in direct hostility to my better judgment, anticipate the new album:

--The song seems to be about a romantic mishap at the mall. The leap from comparing sex to the bubbling contents of a volcano to "broke my heart at the Funplex" is not as Beamonian as you may suspect.

--The chorus alone is better than anything that appeared on Good Stuff.

--It manages not to sound like anything they've done before. This means no twisting, mal-tuned riffs but rather a wall of slow-release timebomb guitars and club-ready beats.

--Kate and Cindy. Together again. Gay men have never been so happy about two women getting together.

--Fred Schneider, having words with fun (yes, you read that right): "Private property--hippie be quiet!"; "Misery at the Funplex!/And there’s too much sex!/The world is goin' to hell/And what is that horrible smell?"

Dear rest of album, be as good or better. Thanks, a fan since '83, Jenn B.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Peanuts Is Timeless: Another Week

Another weekly round-up of all things Internet that evoke the almighty Peanuts. "Oh hurrah", you cry!

Best things first: did you know that a beagle won Best in Show at Westminster? Did you hear about that anywhere over and over? I'm sure Snoopy is beside himself with pride, but let it be known that he also would have been well pleased if the Akita had won. Him and Jim Vantz. That's discriminating taste.

It's been awhile since I've seen Peanuts used in an editorial cartoon, but then again, I don't look particularly hard. The general quality of this one tells you pretty much why.

For the second straight week, an article about the comfort children find in blankets, and another mention of the "Charlie Brown Tree", which should be a statue in Minnesota by now.

More Lucy-pulls-football, three in fact. Two of the references are--suh-prise, suh-prise--smackdab in the middle of political articles.

I gotta get this shirt.

To end it, two cool finds via our dear friend Mr. Google Blog Search. First, a great piece in praise of the incomparable Bill Melendez and specifically the brilliantly executed Snoopy fight with the lawn chair in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I wish I saw more of this on the 'Net.

This is just an amazing undertaking. Unbelievably, given how I seek such out, this escaped my radar until last week. I look forward to playing catch up the next couple days. I think I'll give my complete thoughts on the project upon its completion.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE: 3/11/73

STORY: One of the most oddly-paced specials in the long history of Peanuts on television starts out with Peppermint Patty lamenting to Charlie Brown that "there's no time for love". Jump to a succession of classroom scenes that redefines the term "staying true to the source material". At one school sit Linus, Lucy, Charlie Brown and Sally; at the other, Marcie, Peppermint Patty and Franklin. Despite the remove, all the kids share a basic common-sense disgust at the tedium of education and proclivity for exasperated exclamations.

Seven minutes in, class is dismissed. Charlie Brown is in dire educational straits; the upcoming field trip to an art museum is weighing his head down ever lower than usual, as he must ace the report due after or fail the whole class for that year.

Marcie is also nervous, albeit only about the journey itself. Peppermint Patty assures her that the teachers organize students via a "buddy system", and there is no doubt that they will be paired up. Now armed with a new anxiety--letting down her "buddy"--Marcie wakes up at 4 AM and races over to Patty's house.

Hours later, buses line up to deposit the eager youths crammed within. Sally is as always existentially self-absorbed, much to her big bro's chagrin. The mild drama surrounding the Brown siblings holds up not only them, but also Patty, Marcie and Snoopy. (Why is Snoopy there, you wonder, after all he's not a student. He's there 'cause he's Snoopy. Capice?) Soon they find themselves standing alone outside and unsure which set of doors to enter. Following Charlie Brown's logic that "It must be on the right, it's the closest" they proceed into...a supermarket.

As the other kids enjoy the paintings and sculpture, our quizzical quintet wander the aisles, aghast at the "clearance" prices of these doubtless precious works. Love is the elephant in the market, however, and Peppermint Patty's encroaching somnolence leads her to cajole Charlie Brown. Soon after she conks sitting up against a shelf of cans, he wanders off to take in some more fine art in the frozen foods. Meanwhile, Snoopy is ringing up customers and checking the freshness of fruit en route to getting his leg stuck in a shopping cart. Sheer and utter.

Marcie and Sally find Peppermint Patty and wake her up--it is time to go. Where's Charlie Brown? No one knows, but Marcie lets slip something she thinks she knows: that Patty has a crush on the shy non-achieving boy. Patty's reply still has the crust over its eyes:

"How could anybody ever be in love with boring, dull, wishy-washy old Chuck?" Ha Ha Herman. Charlie Brown just happens to be in the next aisle and walks away, dejectedly. Peppermint Patty, with an assist from Marcie, figures out what 2 plus itself is and realizes what she has inadvertently done.

The bus ride back is depressingly reflective for both Chuck and Patty; he has not only been insulted by a girl, he faces being held back a grade if his report is not up to snuff. She just "hate[s] to hurt anyone's feelings" and proposes that she and Marcie invite Charlie Brown over to work on their respective reports.

This latter gathering is a greater success; Marcie gives Chuck a kiss on the walk home ("If you want that kiss to be from me, Charles, consider it a good-night kiss from Peppermint Patty. 'Cause I think she likes you.").

The next day is a return to the dregs when Charlie Brown realizes, watching Linus' slides of the field trip, that he and the others were in fact in a supermarket. The dread that pools up in the center of his body evaporates when his report garners the only A of the entire class for its "genius" analogy of the artwork to food in a supermarket.

The show ends as it began, Patty and Chuck underneath a tree waxing philosophical-like. Her tentative ruminations on even more timid feelings are undermined when Charlie Brown brings up the Little Red-Haired Girl.

"I can't stand you, Chuck!"

That's love. Or at least it's damn convinced it is. 10

MUSIC: The slow, loping jazz of Vince with 65% more electric piano. "Linus and Lucy" and "Peppermint Patty" are two of the standards cutting a rug up with Vince's new favorite instrument, joining a dance floor packed with new tunes. None is more enchanting than "Pitkin County Blues", the lengthy funk that snakes underneath the classroom bits. If you don't already have it, please pick up Vince Guaraldi and the Lost Cues From the Charlie Brown Television Specials. In addition to the envelope filter-frenzy of the aforementioned "Pitkin", it contains a few other cues from this special and many other rare gems. (If only it contained the caffeine-blasted "Peppermint Patty" heard here! Ah well.) 10

ANIMATION: From the bodies of the familiar denizens of the Peanuts universe, to the artwork in the museum, to the goods on sale in the market, the overall look is subdued and smudged. It nudges you instead of poking you in the ribs. The story is so strong it doesn't need to. 9.5

VOICES: Two characters made their animated debut in this li'l ol' show: Marcie and Franklin. While the latter has very little to say, and thus can't be fairly more than an 8 for the efforts of Todd Barbee, Marcie is the conscience of the program. Her lines are delivered in a sweetly measured, hilariously hesitant tone (especially towards the end) as she tries to keep the peace between her best friend and the boy she likes. Even better, Marcie was voiced by a boy, Jimmy Aherns. 10.

Peppermint Patty is impossible to fuck up, so Christopher DeFaria should keep the 9 I give him in perspective. I wonder if he and Jimmy Aherns still talk, bonded as they are by having female Peanuts characters in their credits.

Lucy and Linus are used sparingly; 8 and 9 for the respective efforts of Robin Kohn and Stephen Shea as the quarrelsome siblings. Hilary Momberger gives a performance of Sally that improves minute by minute, up to a solid 8 by the end. Last but far from least is Chad Webber's turn as Charlie Brown. Wishy-washy uber alles and he utters the most quintessential-sounding "Oh good grief!" ever in this one. 10.


--Some tremendous kid yak from the school bits:

"By the time we grow up, the metric system will probably be official." (That's a timeless joke that Schulz could not have ever suspected would be timeless when he wrote it, seeing as he didn't mean it as a joke in the first place.)

"Who is the father of King Henry the Fourth? I could not possibly care less!"


Ah, so ya like the Cardinal, eh? Wish Pat Donovan would give ya a tumble, eh?

Oh, I basically root for the entire state of California. (John Elway totally banned his kids from watching this growing up.)


Snoopy don't need no words!

--Fun superfan fact. On the ride back, Peppermint Patty refers to Charlie Brown as, well, "Charlie Brown". I'll have to go through the specials and make sure, but this may be the only time she calls him anything other than "Chuck".

--Speaking of General Blockhead, he is shown eating BAM Cereal. Years later, Schulz would take the naming of breakfast grains to a whole other level when Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown depicted a box of Corn Pow cereal.


"How much more pimptastic could this be, Linus? And the answer is none. None more pimptastic."

--The most jawache-inducing part of the whole 25 minutes is Peppermint Patty's impromptu scolding of the woefully philistine Marcie.

"Marcie, that's pop art! Don't you know Pop Art when you see it?"


--The close, unlikely proximity of a museum to a supermarket reminds of me of my trip to Portland, Oregon two years back, when I stumbled upon a Mexican restuarant connected to a strip club that featured the most "unimpressed by naked chicks" clientele ever.

--How does the A on Charlie Brown's report go from this....

to this...

I personally suspect that he had the teacher rewrite the grade on a separate, smaller sheet of paper so he could gaze proudly upon it and not the actual work that earned it for him.


"Why aren't you featured in the credits, sir?"

"I have no idea, Marcie. And quit calling me 'sir'!"


The jerky pacing and plot absurd enough to rouse a chuckle from the specter of Rabelais are the reasons this special succeeds for me, whereas another viewer may find the patchwork nature of the story jarring and may also not be able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the supermarket/museum confusion. The sensitive soul of Peanuts is here in abundance, but with a twist that befits a show heavy on the Peppermint Patty. It's not a special that you will likely appreciate on first viewing (ex., the holiday trilogy, Charlie Brown's All Stars) but give it a few spins in the DVD player before you render a final verdict.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE: 10/30/81

STORY: Charlie Brown spends a lazy day watching a (presumably) local football game on TV. Linus is hanging out with his head buried in a book. In the waning seconds of the game, Chuck's imagination is seized by a two-second shot of a girl sitting in the stands. Mania subsumes sense and Charlie Brown is practically hysterical at the thought of never knowing the identity of this mini-Freya. Proactive Chuck Brown, come on down!

Grudgingly, Linus agrees to help his friend on his quest. Once they've arrived at the 80,000 capacity stadium where that day's game was held, the pair (not necessarily aided and abetted by Snoopy and Woodstock) are able to locate the exact section where the girl was seated--Tunnel 13, Charlie Brown's favorite number--and the family who hold season tickets to the row where said seat was located.

But any investigation spearheaded by the same boy who misspelled "beagle" at a nationwide spelling bee is destined for false hopes and wrong turns.

The address they have takes them to a duplex. Charlie Brown cannot bring himself to gaze directly into the eyes of his incandescent angel, so Linus agrees to knock on the door. The girl who answers is far from ravishing; indeed, she has more the look and sound of one of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel's several dozen offspring. Hope does not abandon the boys yet, however, as it turns out this unsightly young girl was not actually at the game, her seat instead taken by her cousin. Riding a bus ensues.

By this time, Charlie Brown's cheeks have a perma-blush caused by the desire pinballing off and around his pumpkin-head. Thus, when the next door Linus knocks on opens to reveal a tall, blonde girl with an overly-rouged visage, it seems that, yes, this must be her! A little older-looking, perhaps, but since when did true love bow to the tyranny of age?

Except...not only is she also not the one, she's offended at the idea she should be little more than an object of worship for some little stupid kid. Besides, she tells Linus, it was probably her friend who lives at "Happy Valley Farm".

With a palpable sense of "now or never", a nerve-shot Charlie Brown and barely-interested Linus approach the farm, Snoopy and Woodstock somehow still hanging in there with them. gnarly cat with a spiked collar does his best to intimidate the shit out of everyone, but finally Charlie Brown and Linus work out their system of communication. When the girl answers the door, Linus will look back at Chuck. If he gives affirmation, Linus will tell her all about his super nice friend who just happened to fall in total batshit crazy perpetual-eternal love with her after seeing her on a television for two seconds.

The lass who opens the door is a petite blonde holding a pink blanket. Now it is Linus who is instantly smitten. Without further thought to the skittish boy in the zig-zag shirt hanging around just outside the white picket fence, he accepts her invitation inside. It is deep dark night before he leaves. Once on the way home with Charlie Brown, Linus seems to have forgotten his buddies infatuation entirely, as he can do naught but yammer on in the lilting tone of the recently taken lovesick about sweet, kind, loving Mary Jo. Charlie Brown resigns himself to yet another loss and closes out the show with bittersweet recitations from a book on love. 9; not a 10 only because the anticlimactic resolution in the conflict between Charlie Brown and Linus is completely in-line with the Peanuts universe, but not personally satisfying to me as a viewer. It's hard to watch Linus just be so freaking oblivious after he's spent hours being dragged around on a hunt he protested as frivolous from the very start, merely because he fell head over heels for the treasure once it was found.

Then again, Thomas Fuller once wrote, "Love requires Boldness, and scorns Bashfulness." I'm sure Schulz approved.

MUSIC: Light fluffy piano, lighter martial-style drums and horns, some ragtime shit for Snoopy (fits, though) and a rare standalone song: "(When I Feel Most) Alone" by Becky Reardon, a soul-searer that accompanies nicely animated scenes of Charlie Brown looking for his dad's razors. 8

ANIMATION: Dry, but serviceable. As the protagonists have to do a lot of traveling in this one, the background is filled with Peanuts novelties like traffic and buildings other than the kids homes and schools. The attention to detail isn't very noteworthy, but the colors are tastefully bold throughout. There's just something about the clash of yellow and black with red and blue whenever Charlie Brown and Linus are together that grabs my eye. 9

VOICES: There are only five speaking roles in this special, a triumph of economy--but not quality. Charlie Brown as peformed by Grant Wehr only gets a 7.5; he's fine, but Peppermint Patty-ish at times. Earl Reilly as Linus also gets 7.5; too amorphous. He only hits his stride at the end, when he steals his best friends girl.

Said girl, Mary Jo, appears barely over a minute. In that time, it's not hard to see what Charlie Brown's gut was telling him. She's charming and adorable, a female Linus with blanket in tow. To resist the pull is to be inhuman. And the girl who voiced her is named Jennifer Gaffin. As a rule, girls named Jennifer rule. 8.5

The two "false start" girls are voiced by Melissa Strawmeyer and Nicole Eggert. Yes...that Nicole Eggert. 6 and 4, respectively. Meh and feh. Weak and sauce.


--Hey guys! I wouldn't leave those two alone, I think they might be prone to shenanigans!

--"Two seconds is all you need to fall in love." "Especially when it happens every week."

--You know Charlie Brown's lost it when he asks Snoopy questions and seriously expects him to answer.

--I got yer mixed martial-arts right here, pal.


--Mere moments after seeing her for the first time ever, Charlie Brown wails to Linus that the mystery girl in the stands is "the only true love of his life". Forget redheads much, Chuck?

--At various times throughout, both Charlie Brown and Linus refer to the image of Mary Jo on the screen as a "honey shot", a slang term in the business that seems to have been forever abandoned. Too close to "money shot", perhaps.


Well, that's almost it for the Peanuts lovefest this week. Tomorrow this week of swooning at Trapper Jenn MD comes to a close with a review of There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown, the very pinnacle of them all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE: 1/28/75

STORY: For being the first Peanuts special to tackle this most tortuous of holidays, it gets a 10.

There are six intersecting couples of interest (not all the parties willing, however): Lucy and Schroeder, Linus and Sally, Linus and Miss Othmar, Snoopy and Woodstock (more playful), Violet and unnamed teacher, Charlie Brown and whoever will send him a freakin' valentine.

At my elementary school, we would acknowledge Valentines Day by handing out our cards personally, milling around during punch and cookies. If anybody got dissed, nobody else had to know. Unless the poor shunned schmuck decided to roll into a ball of whine near the cubbys and emit the occasional agonized wail until his mother had to come mutter some comforting words as she dragged him out by his collar. That memory still makes me laugh. I bet that kid peed the bed a lot.

Well, at Charlie Brown's house of education, the students put their paper hearts into a big box and some lieutenant of love (Schroeder, in this case) calls out the names of fortunate recipients as he delivers valentines. This is practically a set up, as poor Charlie Brown--clutching a briefcase in anticipation of an overflow of superficial affection--has to sit by and see everyone get theirs, waiting and waiting for his name to be called. It never is.

The girls realize that no one deigned bless Chuck with a valentine and are overcome with guilt. After school, they gather around and present Charlie Brown with a "pity valentine". Despite the righteous indignation expressed by Schroeder (yeah, bros before hoes, you go piano man), the poor blockhead gratefully accepts the thrown bone.

He tells Linus that this may be the start of something wonderful for the lonesome loser, the first trickling of a veritable wave. But the blanket-dependant will hear none of it. His hopes to be with his beloved teacher, Miss Othmar, were dashed when he saw her drive off with her boyfriend.

MUSIC: This is not the standard Vince Guaraldi. Tinkling 88s have been replaced by electric piano and crystal-gleam synthesizers. Regardless of the instrument used, the soundtrack is playful and cheery (even as the action twists knives), a sort of hokey-pokey as seduction method. Classical music pops up three times over the course of the show, never sounding awkward. (For the quiz-minded: Bach during Snoopy's carousel; Chopin during the Pawpet Theatre; and Beethoven for Schroeder being Schroeder.) 10

ANIMATION: The drawings are superb. You know this already. The marvel lies in the colors, thatches of red and purple, deep in more ways than one, the very hues of hearts, veins and blood. 10

VOICES: This is a special where the story sustains the voice actors, rather than the two running neck-and-neck. Duncan Watson and Stephen Shea do Charlie Brown and Linus much deeper than their predecessors; it fits the sage Linus a little better. 8 and 8.5, respectively.

Melanie Kohn does a fine Lucy (9) while Lynn Mortensen's Sally is more mature. Which is fine (8), but I do love when Sally has the voice of a child so obviously struggling with phonetics, and putting accents on the most random syllables.

The most pleasant surprise is the job Greg Felton does with Schroeder. It's nice to see the tow-headed boy wonder standing for a change, and Felton delivers his lines naturally. 9

Although she doesn't have as much opportunity to shine (really just two talks with Linus), the only 10 goes to Linda Ercoli for voicing Violet. Ercoli is one of the finest voice actors the producers ever lucked into, in the pocket and out of the park everytime. She gives instant credibility and personality from word one.


Midway through the action, Lucy decides that even crabby girls need to be entertained. Luckily for her, Snoopy is feeling feisty and Charlie Brown has decided to rest his ulcers. Presenting....dah dah dah! Pawpet Theatre!

Snoopy is the consummate showman. In addition to pawpets, he makes the experience interactive. If it's raining, the audience will get wet. If it's muddy, the audience will get dirty. And if there's a crash, expect a trash bukkake.

--It's not all grimy for our girl, though. One of the best strips in Peanuts history gets animated in this special, giving Lucy a spotlight she is loathe to relinquish.

"Sometimes I don't think you realize that you could lose me. Are you sure you want to suffer the tortures of the memories of a lost love? Do you know the tortures of the memories of a lost love? It's awful! It will haunt you night and day! You'll wake up at night screaming! You can't eat! You can't sleep! You'll want to smash things! You'll hate yourself and the world and everybody in it! Awwwwww! Are you sure you want to risk losing me?"

All that said while she stomps Schroeder's piano beyond recognition. If the Lucy/Schroeder pairing was a sadistic treat before, the revelation via David Michaelis' Schulz that the tense, one-way relationship was in fact based on Schulz' doomed first marriage enriches their circuitous dance by the addition of an almost too-real (for something that utilizes strictly children) element, the artist finding a muse in an unhappy woman whom he was better able to communicate with via his creation than actual conversation. Or would have been better able to communicate, if she'd had the inkling to read the strip. Hmmm.

--Sally receives a candy heart that hilariously bears the entirety of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee?" She recites the text with dogged determination, which of course calls for a little reenactment job by Snoopy, who just happens to be walking around the perimeter of the school when he overhears romantic poetry and springs into action.

"I'll balance ice cream cones on my feet if you read some Wallace Stevens next, sweetie."

--Schroeder calls out some unfamilar names as he hands out valentines. But they sure weren't random.

Phil (Roman, the director)
Amy (Three of the Schulz children)
Sam (Jones, animator)
Lee (Mendelson, executive producer)
Pat (possibly Patricia Long, animator)
and Joanne Lansing (painting supervisor)
Linda (Ercoli, possibly)

That leaves only the names Laura, Tom and Evelyn as mysteries.


--Really, Sally? I sure don't. I mean, that's the city that gave us Nelly and Kurt Warner and the Blues and East St. Louis.

--Per Linus: "The amount of money you spend on a present should be in direct proportion to the amount of affection you have for that person." Poppycock. Love means never having to say, "I hope I got enough left on my card for this."

--When Charlie Brown doesn't receive any valentines in the mail, he insists on running his stubby hands all around, as if he will unlock a secret compartment, some nook and or cranny that the paper fell into. Likewise, after the disaster at school, he goes over to glare into the box, shake it, and once again run his fingers inside, across the bottom and around the sides, refusing to accept the obvious. We all have not only done something like this...we continue to do it.

--"Valentines For Those We Love...Chocolate Covered Fugu For Those We Hate"


This show really struck a chord back when it first aired. Children from all over mailed valentines to "Charlie Brown" out of compassion and love. The storyline stands for now and always even as customs change, because longing for affection will always exist, as basic to human survival as breathing and eating. Charlie Brown is not wanting one particular person to give him a cute drawing surrounding syrupy doggerel...he just wants it from someone, anyone. For all the pathetic trees and rock-filled bags, this just may be Charlie Brown at his most sympathetic.

A Charlie Brown Valentine

AIRDATE: 2/14/02 (See what they did there?)

STORY: Rather than attempt to match (much less surpass) Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson whipped up a patchwork quilt of ardor-centered Peanuts strips to spread out over 25 minutes. Familiar themes abound: Charlie Brown really wants to give a valentine to that Little Red-Haired Girl (well, at least he's a bit more proactive in this one); Schroeder rebuffs Lucy; and Linus is pimps-heart cold to would-be girlfriend Sally Brown.

Charlie Brown attempts to phone the Little Red-Haired Girl (I so could abbreviate, but I keeps it real for real) and instead dials up Marcie. Aggressive chicks plus passive dude equal Marcie and Peppermint Patty assuming Chuck is their date for the upcoming Valentines dance.

At said dance, Charlie Brown flops out. He tries to approach the Little Red-Haired Girl for the last dance, but Patty and Marcie emerge to intercept him as though he were a sweaty, trembling missle. Snoopy ends up dancing with the Little Red-Haired Girl (and they animated her again!), leaving his owner with shattered dreams and two pissed-off dates.

In between, Snoopy hands out kisses and writes love poems. 7.5

MUSIC: As with story, as with sounds. Updates to old classics. Can't go wrong with it, but sometimes playing it safe is sorry. 8

ANIMATION: More cartoon-y than normal. In mimic of the strip, white outlines curve Snoopy's ears and Lucy's hair. I don't want to know how much rotisserie chicken was scarfed down before that idea was approved. The overall look is more devoted to the details, and some say that's where God is. And only he knows why Franklin was cross-hatched. 7.5

VOICES: Wesley Singerman tries real hard as Charlie Brown, but can only achieve a precious few moments of note ("Do I what?"); 7.5. Sally is very disappointingly voiced by Nicolette Little (only a 7) while Lauren Schiffel does a bit better as Lucy (8). Marcie and Peppermint Patty are done justice, at least; while I prefer my nerdy girls a bit more measured, Jessica P. Stone gets an 8, and Emily Lalande 9's it up as Marcie's rakish idol.

Without a bit of hyperbole, I can proclaim Corey Padnos the worst Linus ever. He was off in Christmas Tales, and his performance here fails to register as anything other than askew. This kid turns Linus into some snotty, snobby, impatient, condescending jerkface. In the process of adding some attitude, Padnos loses the soul of Linus. 4, and I'm being nice.

Hell, even Christoper Ryan Johnson is better as Schroeder (7). And you know how I feel about Schroeder.


--It really is heartwarming to hear Charlie Brown as he swoons over his valentine and practices how he will deliver it to the Little Red-Haired Girl. You want to see him do it, irresistably. Instead, his head puts his heart in a sleeper hold and, as he tells Linus, "I mailed it, anonymously."

At which point, the chorus to Sleater-Kinney's "Anonymous" should have blared over the sight of Charlie Brown walking dejectedly away from both mailbox and best friend, his love doomed to be eternally unrequited. Any use of a Sleater-Kinney song improves a TV show by like, 2 "quality" points. Unless the song is "Hubcap", in which case minus 2.

--"This isn't just a valentine, Little Red-Haired Girl. It's also a meticulously researched timetable of your normal weekday. When you wake up, what you eat for breakfast, how long you brush your teeth...."

--Taking Lines In A Childrens Show Way Out of Context 101: "I wanna go over to her house and give it to her. But I think I'd be too nervous to do it without practice."

--The unstoppable egotism of Patricia Reichardt in full throttle, determined to make day into night, night into day, and horse shit into pumpkin pie. "That letter is from me! You like me, Chuck!"


--Let's just get it out of the way. Why did they animate the Little Red-Haired Girl...again?! And if you refer to the first time, in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, they didn't even stay consistent in the animation. Not even close.

--"I've never received a single valentine", Chuck laments to Peppermint Patty at the beginning of the special. Um, what? Either he's disowned the "pity valentine" of the first V-day special or this show is actually meant to predate it on some Legend of Zelda timeline shit.

--"She's something and I'm nothing. If I were something, and she were nothing, I could talk to her. Or if she were something, and I were something, then I could also talk to her. Or if she were nothing, and I were nothing, then I could also talk to her. But she's something, and I'm nothing, so I can't talk to her."

"For a nothing, Charlie Brown, you're really something."

Taken from the strip, a fantastic exchange between Charlie Brown and Linus on the bench at recess, an example of the pretzel-effect love has on the human psyche. Just one problem; Linus (thanks to the resoundingly overwhelmed boy who voices him) is completely unsympathetic. Chris Shea set the template for the character, a guide that emphasized a sharp eye and a soft heart. None of the gentle wryness usually associated with the middle Van Pelt child is here. Padnos accentuates the "nothing" and "something" with a haughty sneer in his voice, something you'd expect the producers to encourage in the child reading for Lucy and not her tender brother. Jeez, did Padnos know which Van Pelt's lines he was reciting? Did Melendez not know?

--In the end, the Snoopy Wheelbarrow of Paper Love delivers a valentine to Chuck, a vague and cheaply sentimental ending that nevertheless works, mainly due to the final frame: a beaming Charlie Brown gazing down at the valentine as a heart frames him in the background. Very cute. I'd feature it here if my video player hadn't refused to capture it, so instead, here's a leftover from Be My Valentine (the Sally/Snoopy poetry sequence).

Yeah...that'll work.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You're In Love, Charlie Brown

What is love, if not a twisted face?

AIRDATE: 6/12/67

STORY: It's almost the last day of school, and Charlie Brown is overwrought. But it's not lackluster grades or the looming threat of an underloved bully stalking 'round the flagpole that has our balloon-headed hero crapping razor blades. It's "that Little Red-Haired Girl". Charlie Brown is determined to let his Venus know exactly how he feels, and spends the better part of two days trying to muster up the due courage. Best effort and intentions are rendered moot, however, in the blank unfeeling face of utter terror. Thus, inner pep talks fizzle, notes are mixed in with school work, sandwiches are knotted and the PTA gets much love for their brush skills.

As the school year ends, Charlie Brown races to the bus. Eyes wild with young-boy desperation, he seeks out his dreamgirl amid the trampling mass of ecstatic kiddies boarding the cheese wagon to freedom. It seems all is truly lost when the bus rumbles off, leaving behind a shattered soul and some unsympathetic fumes.

Or maybe not.

It takes several seconds for the crestfallen lad to realize he is clutching a piece of paper.

A solid 9. Why not a perfect 10? Read on.

MUSIC: This came out in 1967, so that means Guaraldi genius top to bottom, bottom to top. The soundtrack to You're In Love tickles and hugs in all the right spots at all the right times. Instantly catchy, utterly unique originals sit alongside variations of songs that had already become favorites of viewers. Vince even throws a rearranged "Pomp and Circumstance" in the bag. "Release all Guaraldi cues on CD boxset now" is not code for anything, but rather a tearjerking plea for some kind of sanity. This gets the Jimmy Onishi 10.

ANIMATION: Still classic-era, warm and inviting as a cup of hot chocolate in bed. Includes some of my all-time favorite Peanuts standbys, like soundless clapping (how Zen! Or not), hearts surrounding Sally as she swoons over the unmoved Linus, Snoopy dancing after some seemingly non-danceworthy action (in this case, setting the table for breakfast), and of course, the deluge of the mammoth HA's. Most head-shakingly stupendous of all? Sharply expressive faces that tell tales on the soul. How can animated kids have more life than half the people in my hometown? 10

VOICES: The kids behind Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Sally are the same from the first three specials: Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Sally Dryer and Cathy Steinberg. All get their standard 10's, with the exception of the usually-sublime Shea, who seems lacking here as the trusty buddy of a lovestruck loser. I dunno, he just needs more timbre, less Cindy Brady. 9 regardless, but it seems kin to when Ringo got disillusioned during the White Album sessions.

Ann Altieri voiced Frieda in the prior programs, but seeing as the other red-haired girl wasn't featured in this special, the producers merely transferred her to the role of Violet. Not much to do, but good one on her regardless. 8

Everyone save Robbins is overshadowed, however, by Gail DeFaria's pitch-perfect Peppermint Patty. You're in Love marked the animated debut of the ruggedly cute girl from the other side of the neighborhood (the side where all the kids seem to be growing up and out quicker). There are two types people in this world: Peppermint Patty People and Kid Rock People. Take your side, knowing that one comprises sweet, fun-loving smartasses turned on by lynx-scratched larynxes and the other is lined with drunken hicks convinced that there is a conspiracy afoot to turn all American men into vegan Communist Radiohead fans.


--As Charlie Brown is in the midst of his latest (and lovingly tended to, even if he doesn't understand it fully yet) existential crisis, the resounding "yes!" of recess is in full bloom.

The blue of Sally's dress matches Linus' blanket. You'd think this would make him a bit more receptive.

Watch out, kid, you've stumbled upon the "Bitches Only" swingset.

It's 3 & 4!

--"You know why that Little Red-Haired Girl never notices me? 'Cause I'm nothing. When she looks over, there's nothing to see. How can she see someone who's nothing?" Ooooh, Nietzsche stuff!

--Peppermint Patty attempts to play matchmaker for the ol' boy, except she never lets him get out exactly who his crush is. Assuming it's Lucy, she then runs off to inform "Lucille" that her paramour will be waiting to spill his heart at the baseball field that night. While she's a bungler as Cupid, you have to admire Patty's ability to toss French into the conversation. "An affaire d'amor, eh?" Which leads to, "Won't give you a tumble, eh?" It's clear that Peppermint Patty's love of baseball is eclipsed only by her passion for the sound of her own voice. Me too!

--No amount of still-frames, animated gifs, or mere words can do justice to the hysterically funny, drop-off-the-couch moment when Charlie Brown is accosted by Lucy and her pulled-hair doppleganger on their way home from school.

"Hellloooo stupid."

Lucy's delivery of this jawbreaker is so cool and smooth, so reeking of malevolent glee, that the very glow of it may blind you to what truly makes this line a rewind-button ruiner. Kids are this mean to other kids. The genius of Charles Schulz was not only that he knew this, but that he used it as a springboard to greater observations.

Pardon me while I go rewatch that part seven more times and then see if I can make a ringtone of it.

--Charlie Brown's avoidance of the Little Red-Haired Girl outside the school grounds and his subesequent marveling that they, so obviously unequal, should share the same sidewalk is a fabulous reminder of how dumb love can make you. I admit that I have on occasion looked over at my boyfriend and thought to myself how fortunate I am to ride in the same car with him or share a laugh with him or even, yes, have this wonderful human being in my life. Isn't that sweet? It sure is. It's also borderline retarded. I mean, I also occupy space with deadbeats and lowlifes every time I pass under the bridge near the police station on my way to work. Should I consider myself among the blessed that I trod on the same cracked sidewalk as that guy in the Orlando Magic Starter jacket pissing against the wall?

--This special was also the first to feature the now-legendary "wa-wa" for adult voices.


--Back to the conclusion, wherein Chuck's damp paws moisten a note ostensibly from his long-admired. But come on. I know these shows are not canon and thus liberties can be taken left and right with the Peanuts universe, but can this even be remotely believed? Let's take a closer look.

Roll call! Couple faceless-nameless, Patty, Sally, some dudes, some chicks, Lucy...

...Violet not far behind amid a gaggle of other unspecifieds, and oh oh! There's a Little-Red Haired Girl! Could she be the one? Doesn't look anything like the Little Red-Haired Girl of It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, though. Hmm.

Linus shows up...and so do Lucy and Patty again.

There's Violet and that damned redhead again! Hey...this looks like lazy animation! Someone got real sick of drawing distinct children real fast. The appearance of doubles calls this entire story into question. Did the Little Red-Haired Girl have one opportunity to press the paper into Charlie Brown's hand, or two?


There was never a follow-up to the twist at the end, and jeez, certainly something so earth-shattering as the girl Charlie Brown kiddy-lusts over throwing him a bone would warrant a new special to explore the possibilites (Let's Just Be Friends, Charlie Brown), but nope. Not even a requisite throwaway comment in any future specials. Say wuzza? So why have this ending? If it's not going to be developed even slightly, if by next year Charlie Brown will still be shown as a pining, whining pile of heartsick, why bother? It's kinda cruel, really.

You know what I think? That note was a practical joke, and that it's meant to be implied by the lack of followthrough. Lucy probably wrote it, or even Violet in some attempt to impress Lucy. They both knew how he yearned for her, and thought a fake note would be quite the larf. Then they told Charlie Brown in mid-July.

So you can stop dancing, jerkass! It was all a scheme to break your heart, and it worked! AGAIN. Seriously, why would she sign it "Little Red-Haired Girl"? Did you ever think about that, Chuck? Huh?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE: 10/24/77 (Or, one day after Virginia Benningfield allowed her final child passage into the world.)

STORY: It's the big Homecoming Dance for pre-teens, ya bastards! That means a parade and a football game.

On one side is Peppermint Patty's squad, featuring among its ranks the freckled one herself, Charlie Brown, Linus, Franklin, Pig Pen, Schroeder, Lucy and several other of the "faceless-nameless". Opposing them are some ambulatory refrigerators with Scarlet Knights uniforms thrown over them. The game goes down to the frayed end, with the score 21-20 and P. Pat's bunch needing only a kick to win. Lamentably, this means the outcome depends on the foot of Charlie Brown...and the unfettered sadism of placeholder Lucy Van Pelt.

Despite his predictably colossal failure on the field, Charlie Brown dutifully attends the dance and proceeds to steal the show. As Linus explains the next morning, as both boys lean up against their trusty wall, Charlie Brown not only planted a lengthy smooch on the Homecoming Queen, he shimmied up a storm with her and all the other girls as well. "You did the Hustle, the Bump, the Chicken, and all those other new dances." Like the Aqua Velva, Dirty Dog and Shy Tuna.

However, a Boswell-like recollection of his heroic feats does not make Charlie Brown feel a lot better, huh. With a woeful moan as natural as a heartbeat, he begs the eternal question: "What good is it to do anything, Linus, if you can't remember what you did?"

A 7.5 may sound low. To which I say, read on.

MUSIC: It's the Ed Bogas/Judy Munsen period, which means you try and enjoy the show in spite of the music. They say you can't take it with you when you go, but Vince Guaraldi took a great deal with him. Namely, the heart and soul of music on children's television. 6

Thirteen years before its release, Snoopy hears Vision Creation Newsun in his head and reacts accordingly.

ANIMATION: 9. If the music is on the decline, the look of the specials is tight and bright as ever, involving to the eye and friendly to the main characters. Distinction made for a reason. Any girl who is not of the regular gang has annoying blush circles on each cheek, and more than aesthetically offputting, it's just lazy.

VOICES: There are actually many things you can count on besides death and taxes. Like the University of Maryland campus rioting after a big win in any sport (including tiddlywinks? Oh, especially tiddlywinks). Or the President of the United States always turning out to be one of the rankest assholes alive at the time, regardless of party affiliation (including William Henry Harrison? Yes! The only word to describe someone who thinks so little of being appointed Commander-in-Chief that he allows his body to quit in the face of the common cold is "asshole".)

Another certainty is the awesomosity of whoever voices Peppermint Patty in Peanuts cartoons. They can't all be Linda Ercoli, but male or female, any child given the responsibility of bringing one of the world's greatest tomboys to vivid, butt-kicking life excels in the role. Laura Planting brings a touch of sinus infection to earn her 9.

The only other female speaking part is Michelle Muller's Lucy and well, I love alliteration in names. I truly do. But when you underperform, I'm gonna forget about the poetry of your handle and call you out on it. 7.5 Lucy's more action than talk here anyways.

The rest of the cast gets 8's. That's Daniel Anderson's remarkably faithful Linus, Ronald Hendrix's tentative Franklin and Arrin Skelley's mournful Chuck. (The last kid should consider himself touched by the hand of God to not lose a point based on having the worst name in the history of Peanuts voice actors.)


--How does Snoopy entertain thee? Let us screen capture the ways.

News chopper.

Impartial referee.

Trusted doctor.

Talented musician.

Male cheerleader.

Much more preferable to the wave as a form of crowd participation. (Is that Peppermint Patty in the crowd, just above the second square from top left?)

--Not that repeating things is bad.

Snoopy stands over a groggy kid and drinks a glass of water. As featured in A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the funniest moment in movie history. As featured here? Funniest moment in the special. It never gets old, and I still look forward to one day doing this in real life. Preferably over someone that I don't care for that much to begin with.

--Does anyone remember the stink that was raised by some parents and media watchdogs over Franklin being shown arm in arm with a white girl? Me neither. I think it went under the radar for several reasons, not least being it's a dumb fuckin' thing to be offended by.

--Peppermint Patty spends the pregame drawing out the gameplan on a trusty locker room chalkboard. This gives her team sufficient fuel to face their predetermined doom with passion and grit. All except Franklin, who asks his coach (and then Schroeder on the way to the field) "Are we the X's or the O's?" Of course, he gets no response.

At the end of the first half, Patty's bunch is down 21-6, thanks in no small part to missed field goals by Charlie Brown that were actually not his fault. Lucy pulled the ball away every time. Either no one saw this rather egregious trickery, or people are just addicted to beating up on the roundheaded kid, because at halftime, Peppermint Patty blurts out, To answer your earlier question, Franklin, about the X's and the zeroes, I think we found out who our zero is."

Ouch. Manhood going into hibernation in 1, 2....

--When Charlie Brown lays the (lip) smack down on the Queen, he immediately exits reality and floats up to and around the circumference of a fantastic otherworld, filled with hearts and clouds, a heaven beyond heaven, the type of paradise fit snug alongside one's whims rather than a Shangri-La one has to adapt to. To his eventual chagrin, this journey also includes a relaxing dip in the river Lethe. If true happiness can be found in sweet memory as the residue of sweeter action, it's difficult not to feel that even though Blockhead won, Blockhead still lost. Again.

"Hey, Chuck! Look out for the campy drawing of Queen Victoria!"

--"Hiya, Chuck. I bet'cha kinda like being bossed around by a girl who is superior to you in everything boys are supposed to excel at. You kinda like me, don't'cha, Chuck?"

When just earlier, at the beginning of the show...

One thing about women, we traffic in mixed messages alot. More out of boredom than malice, but still.

--Euripides once wrote, "A woman should always stand by a woman." So it is at the dance. Bunched up with the ever-evil Lucy and the smarmy Frieda, Peppermint Patty lets loose a previously-unrevealed side to her personality, berating Chuck for his athletic shortcomings (with the girl who actually blew the game standing right next to her unscathed and relishing every moment!) and flat-out telling him that no girl, much less the Homecoming Queen, will want to accept a kiss from him.

At the risk of sounding like a poster...Patty here seems out of character. Before, she reveled in teasing and taunting Chuck playfully before during and after those baseball games where her team inevitably crushed his. No matter what she said, her sly tone and slyer facial expressions made it clear that she had a soft spot in her heart for the lovable loser. Here, she's just tearing him apart. Sure, this time his incompetence led to her team taking the loss, wasn't his fault!

--Yeah, let's get to that a little more now. Lucy is the villain of this piece, with absolutely no room for argument. The fact that she would sabotage Charlie Brown so relentlessly is hardly a shocker. What sends my eyeballs swimming into some cerebrospinal fluid is that everyone, without fail, does not call her out on it. Her noble brother Linus? "If only you hadn't missed that kick, Charlie Brown." Peppermint Patty you can almost forgive, because she has an established tendency towards dumbness (graduating dog obedience school and thinking her education was done, unable to see that Snoopy is a dog and not another neighborhood kid). But Linus quotes dead people and knows firsthand how devious his sister is. His ignorance just boggles.

Further evidence of Lucy's shady nature can be found in her team's comeback. At the half, the score is 21-6. Improbably, the kids score two touchdowns and hold the other team. When Lucy pulls away the ball for the final time, it's 21-20.

Now, touchdowns count for six points apiece, with a kick for the extra point. Clearly, although no kicks were shown, Peppermint Patty's team got 14 points on the board. How? They had no other kicker on the roster, so it had to be the Way Sinkable Charlie Brown booting 'em through the uprights. Doesn't make sense when you consider that all we've seen is him missing chance after chance thanks to his crabby nemesis.

But it does. Lucy has the reprobate blood of Bathory coursing through her veins, remember, and she's no numbskull. She allowed Charlie Brown to get those extra points that would bring the team tantalizingly close to victory, knowing all the while that if and when he was called upon to be the hero, she would revert to her old pigskin prankery and fit the ol' boy for horns.

Total...bitch. Gotta love her, though.

--I joked earlier about a non-controversy involving Franklin, but It's Your First Kiss actually stirred up some contentious feelings among viewers.

The first point I've already discussed: the inexplicable laying of blame at the feet of Charlie Brown. He was berated so senselessly that it made getting a rock in his trick or treat bag seem like an misunderstood adult act of humanitarian mercy. And while viewers loved seeing Chuck squirm in his own ineptitude, comforting as it is, apparently they didn't dig it when he was so innocent. Viewers flooded the network and the producers with protests over the unfair treatment their hero received, and apparently, they struck a nerve. If you watch It's Your First Kiss on DVD, you are not watching the show as it originally aired. Two comments that Peppermint Patty made after Charlie Brown failed to kick the ball were dubbed out by reversing the audio and decreasing the volume of said audio, so to watch it now is to wonder why Peppermint Patty is invoking Satan in such a hushed tone of voice.

"Chuck, you can't do anything right!" Available only on VHS.

Then we come to the Homecoming Queen. I forgot to mention earlier that she's a redhaired girl. No, she isn't referred to as such, but any Peanuts fan knows what that signifies, or is supposed to anyway. She's also given a name: Heather. The red-haired girl of the strip was never drawn or named, so to see this special threw many for a loop, as canon-fuckery has a tendency to do.

And did any fan of the strip imagine the Little Red-Haired Girl like this?

Not me; she's too "P.R. firm"--prim, proper, and pretty. I always envisioned the girl of Charlie Brown's dreams as country-beautiful, with short wavy red hair and a fuller face. Her personality leaned towards the detached side, but far from arrogant. She was intelligent and capable, approachable by anyone but the most neurotic kid in school. This "Heather", though...she brings to mind another shade of red--that of the pigs blood that landed on Carrie White. And oh man, Heather ain't gonna last long at that dance.

Charles Schulz would later express regret not only for allowing a redhaired girl to be animated, but also that she should be named. Lord knows how hard he actually took it.


This is a very sweet story in the classic Peanuts sense. Meaning, parts of it make no sense but non-, and even the triumph is tempered. The various questionable decisions in music, story and animation indicate more of a desire to experiment than an overall, irrevocable dip in quality--as future shows would bear out.

I wonder if any of my older siblings watched this that Monday night, or if they were too busy at the hospital, pestering Mom about when their new baby sister could come home. Silly, if they were; babies are born every day.