Sunday, April 5, 2009

You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown

Baseball season starts today. Yep.

AIRDATE: 10/28/75

STORY: Immediately we are thrust into one of Charles Schulz' most beloved themes: sports. A yellow-clad beagle crosses a tennis court on his way to retrieve an automated ball-server. Somehow this turns into misadventure.

The first fourth of the story features Snoopy's foibles with a racket. It's only when the beleaguered beagle is yelled at by a kiddy-dyke on a motor bike that the "A story" begins. And what a story it is! (Har! I'm almost as funny as Seth MacFarlane.) A motocross race for the kids is imminent, and Peppermint Patty is determined to embarrass as many of her friends as she can on her way to certain victory. Her recruiting technique consists of selling potential racers on the increasing awesomosity of motocross ("the sport that's sweeping the nation!") and the irresistible grand prize--two tickets to the Pro Bowl! Wow. A homeless person would refuse that as a gift. ("I'd rather have the can of pumpkin mix.")

Forever-ass-fire Linus goes with Charlie Brown to purchase a bike that can do the job. They find the equivalent of a Section 7-G drone, a beat-up two-wheeler that may shatter if tipped over. Charlie Brown has already experienced one humiliation today--Lucy pulled the ball away again. He seems to be setting himself up for epic failure.

Especially when he arrives at the track and sees a flamingly sanguine Patty showing off her skills. And particularly when he sees the Masked Marvel. And especiaticulary when you see he has number 13.

After the first turn--the first turn! You scouted your own team!--Charlie Brown and the Marvel wipe out. One gets taken to the vet, the other to the hospital. A caged up blockhead comes to his senses, retrieves his pup, and returns to the race. How either has a realistic chance at winning after all that time elapsed is beyond my mind, I mean aren't there to laps to make up? Regardless.

The mudpits claim every racer save the boy and his dog. The Marvels sizable lead causes much rejoicing from the gathered throng, and he treats his adoring public with spins and wheelies. At which point his bike (#1) dies. Sputter sputter pfft! Luckily for the Marvel (and all those who enjoy watching animals best humans at competitive endeavors), the tennis court is right near the track! Such convenience you can't imagine! Some rejiggering later, and the Masked Marvel is plop atop his new vehicle--the automated ball-server. Not only is it swift enough to keep him ahead of the dwindled pack, it gives him the chance to turn around and fire balls at his enemies.

Unfortunately for the Marvel (and all those who enjoy watching animals best humans at competitive endeavors), the mudpit claims him as its last victim. As he sinks deep into the gurgling pudding, Charlie Brown sputters and shakes to victory.

What an improbable outcome! Surely some catch? No, blockhead wins. Boo, cry the Peanuts purists, Charlie Brown can't win! He's a loser! As sure as the sun rises and sets, as certainly as the planets circle the sun, as absolutely as the New York Yankees are ruining Major League Baseball, Charlie Brown must lose!

Fret not, dear faithful, for the mind of Charles Schulz never let us down.* Here comes Loretta, "The Motocross Queen", to present Charlie Brown with his hard-earned reward. However. The promised prize--Pro Bowl tickets--could not be acquired, so instead, Charlie Brown receives...five free haircuts!

"But my dad's a barber! And I don't have that much hair to cut!"

Oh Henry!

I give this one a 9. It won an Emmy, and should probably earn a retroactive Peabody considering all the detritus passing as "childrens programming" on today's glow-box.

ANIMATION: Classic 70s look. Superbly drawn and filled. Snoopy's canary-colored gear looks great contrasted with the blue-gray of the tennis court. The dirt tracks are a festival of ugly browns, culminating with those choco-pudding mudpits. Oh, and use of a single-color backdrop during scenes where someone loses their shit? Check.

The tennis game was done fantastically. Snoopy rushing end to end, exhausting himself for that final point--awesome awesome awesome. When he p-tuis the ball out of his mouth, hell, even the expectorate was done tastefully. 9.5

MUSIC: Instantly our ears are massaged by "Motocross", a brilliant Vince Guaraldi composition that surely ranks in his Top 5 (and is captured in untrammelled glory on this CD--buy it!). The hopscotch-drunk bass line barely has time to fill the shelves in your cortex before gentle key drops splash down from the clouds. The sun peeks through in the form of wishful washy synth. Synth in fact dominates throughout, which never did Bogas and Munsen any favors, but this is Guaraldi, people. The two of them couldn't measure up to half of that man. 10.

VOICES: It becomes difficult after so many reviews to explain precisely what makes voice acting either good or not good. I try.

Duncan Wilson gets 7.5 for his Charlie Brown. Did a good job considering he had a retainer glued to the inside of his mouth for the entire recording process. Stuart Brotman's double P scores 8.5 for sounding like the only kid in the world with smokers throat. Gets loud very suddenly--"A GOOD ATHLETE LIKE YOU!"

Gail Davis and Liam Martin get 8's for Sally and Linus. Melanie Kohn pulls a double shift as Lucy and Loretta, and gets a 9 for not being annoying. As my man Macca says, "It's a fine line."

The sole 10 goes to Jimmy Aherns, who also got a perfect score for the job he did in There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown. No hitches, no hiccups. The sequence where Marcie interviews all the racers as they prep, and cuts them of before they get a chance to utter their cliches, is absurd and wonderful.


--The premise of this special was inspired by Craig Schulz, whose passion for motocross struck his father as great fodder for the Peanuts gang. A DVD extra features home video of young Craig doing his thing with his bike all around the family grounds, contrasted with adult Craig reflecting on that time. It's spooky how much he sounds like his pops.

--Charlie Brown's helmet bit the foot long in that collision with his dog, so Linus hops to the rescue, summoning forth one of the sincerest specimens from the whole patch and carving out some headgear that fits his pal to pumpkinhead perfection. (Remember that horror flick Pumpkinhead? All the shit went down when those older kids rolled in with their dirt bikes.)

--Snoopy's match runs from 2:13 to 6:10, with only score updates by a Linus-y voice breaking the silence. Up 6-5, Snoop blows his chance to win in a manner worthy of his conjectural master: repeated faults and shot-whiffing. Suitably, he reacts like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe doing lines of coke with King Kong Bundy. It'll make your throat hurt from laughing, but your entire voice might go when the winner is revealed.


"See kid, that's 'meta'."


Jesus, even the screen capture kills me. The automated ball server should be an unlockable ground attack vehicle in the upcoming Flying Ace video game.


--A Sunday strip comes to animated life as Sally and her eternal infernal infuriator Linus shuffle off to the courts ("That's the only trouble with tennis", laments Linus. "You can't play it alone.")

Sally's apprehension of a full house sets Linus off. He hurls invective at those bastard "older kids" who get off on bullying the poor young'uns like them, why, "they'll play all day!" Shot through with vicarious outrage, Sally advances toward the (unseen) older kids and starts threatening them with the wrath of her "boyfriend". Who promptly goes from vengeful to gutless, leaving Sally alone on a bench to bemoan, "That's the only trouble with tennis. You can't play it alone."

--"How will I ever afford a motorbike? I'm not a millionaire." That's why I like babies over kids, babies don't say dumb stuff like that. Babies don't say, period. WINfants.

--Determined to keep the flame of triumph burning high and long, and to justify stenciling "BAD MOTHERFUCKER" in the zig zag of his shirt, Chuck Ol' Boy heads out to the mound and vows that this will be the end. That 980-game losing streak will end. That's the spirit! That's your clothes strewn all over the field!


You're a Good Sport was fun to review. Great to watch, great to just listen to, without a single cringe worthy moment. Nah, even that "sweeping the nation" part was more hilariously cornball than groan-inducing. I've seen other reviews of the new DVD that come to similar conclusions. This is an overlooked treasure, especially appealing to the little Peanuts fan.

*Well, there was Pied Piper. But that was just the one time!


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for pointing out "Motocross". I can't tell you how long I've been trying to find that song. Since the early 80s? Yikes! Anyway thanks!

  2. You're quite welcome! I only wish there was a complete box set of all the Guaraldi cues. But having "Motocross" on CD will definitely do.

  3. I love your blog! Although I'm not a fan of this special, your take on it is certainly interesting.