Monday, April 6, 2009

You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown

Pigpen! 5! And all your favorites in Peanuts Christ Superstar!

AIRDATE: 3/19/79

STORY: The Junior Olympics are coming! They're like the Special Olympics, but world leaders don't feel as comfortable making jokes about them. At whatever hell school the gang attends, events are filling up quick, but no one has come forth to rep their education-house in the (gulp) decathlon, that ten-headed Greek monster of athletic competence. Lucy, Linus, Marcie and Peppermint Patty want no part (and per the strip, the latter two don't even attend the same school as the other kids). Too taxing, goes the room consensus. Then in comes Charlie. Early birds get worms, late birds get wormy little girls talking up the decathlon like it's the bestest thing since the printing press. (Lucy's not bad; she's just drawn that way.) Despite Linus' attempts at protestation, Chuck is sold when Lucy explains, "You don't have to be good at any one thing in particular."

Well, if he's going to be participating in runs of 100, 400 and 1500-meters, 110-meter high hurdles, javelin and discus throws, shot put, pole vault, high jump, and long jump, he'll need a trainer. P. Pat like Jim Dandy! Under her trainers eye, Chuck endures calisthenics and weight training, as Snoopy tags along frivolously. Also in attendance is Patty's shadow Marcie, who seems in awe of Charlie Brown's determination. Still Patty is unconvinced that she has molded him into a kick-ass warrior, and recruits Marcie to the competition as back up. Going against them will be Freddy Fabulous from Fremont and the Masked Marvel, repping Ace Obedience School.

After a trying first day, Charlie Brown sits in a respectable third. This imbues his spirit with hope, a feeling he's far from accustomed to. Inevitably, the second and final day begins disastrously when he places dead last in the cursed hurdles. P. Pat is propelled into paroxysms of perturbedness. Resisting his natural urge--to go sink to the bottom with all the other lees--he grabs first place in both discus and javelin.

All he has to do is win the 1500 meter race to take the overall gold.

Just like You're a Good Sport..., Charlie Brown could actually win.

Flying high upon the wings of love, our knobby-kneed half-a-hero breaks ahead of the pack. Cheers in his ears, empty race track before his eyes, Jeffrey Osborne in that part of his brain that traps songs for up to several hours at a time, Charlie Brown submits. He permits his eyes full closure and allows his mind to drift off into a daydream nation where no red-haired little girl can resist a Pumpkinhead Rain King.

This is his moment. Undeniable. Unquestionable. Everyone will love, no, adore him. Charlie Brown! It's hero time, which is like Hammer Time with shorts instead of parachute pants.

Then he runs clear off the track, right off the school grounds.

Later, sitting under a resplendent tree with Peppermint Patty (the setting for so many wonderful strips), Chuck learns that his stupidity was Marcie's shining moment, as she took both the race and decathlon. Her other opponents, The Marvel and Alliteration Boy, remained conscious of their surroundings, but got into a fight mid-race, which also helped her cause. If only that had been animated!

Cue Marcie to walk up on her friends and redefine the term "gracious winner", bestowing all sorts of florid praise on the clearly-cursed Charles. Then, to his pleasure, Patty's ambivalence, and the viewers shock, Marcie lifts her glasses (revealing her eyes for the first and only time) and winks at the boy she loves who could never love her. 8.5

ANIMATION: On the cusp of the 80s, you know, so you already know the colors are saturated. Everything has to just jump out and grab ya like abracadabra! The difference between this and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is the difference between Cyndi Lauper and Petula Clark. Nice job with Marcie's incessant, disarmingly adorable smiling, though. 7.5

MUSIC: By now my readers should understand that when I say "Bogas and Munsen" I mean "loud and repetitive". 7. Y'all..that wah-wack guitar part when Freddy's about to high jump? Do I smell effort?

VOICES: Arrin Skelley got an 8 from me in First Kiss, and so here. Same with Michelle Muller's Lucy, who sounds very mature. Tim Hall gets one too, for not making Freddy Alliteration Boy sound like a bully from Race For Your Life.

Linus doesn't appear much, so a 7 for Daniel Anderson is relative. Patricia Patts, a repeat performer with a fantastic name, earns an 8.5. But as in the decathlon, Marcie takes top honors, scoring as 9. Casey Carlson is a joy here. Marcie comes across as sweet and supportive, not saccharine and obsequious. ("You are strong", she tells Charlie Brown as he trains. She may be the only one who believes it.)

(Final note: Chuck's grunts whilst hefting the barbell are courtesy an uncredited Mel Blanc, taken from the Looney Tunes cartoon "Tease For Two".)


--Freddy is big and dismissive. He's here to win damnit, and has little time for all this "Good Grief"-ness and overall existential muhlally. His meanest act is calling Charlie Brown "Pumpkinhead"--nice call-back to You're a Good Sport--but really, that's not an insult to make Dorothy Parker cry.

--We get to see a Jenn-you-win Snoopy dance!

--Good thing nobody in the neighborhood drives, or Charlie Brown could have been in real trouble at the end.


--Oh heavenly stars, an adult announcers voice?! That's not Peanuts! Stop parking on my memories! Oh the whole show is ruined for me now!

If you feel this way, you probably also think your mother and father lost their virginity to each other.

--Neither Charlie Brown or Peppermint Patty have heard of Ace Obedience School. However, hardcore fans know that there is extensive evidence to the contrary.

Ladies and tonight...hailing from 1976, weighing in at 37 strips...the longest storyline in Peanuts history!

Schulz once said that Peppermint Patty could make a great comic strip series on her own, and that run proves him right.

--Bill Melendez coaches the voice actors, and I would have loved to know the story behind the lack of uniformity in the pronunciation of "decathlon". Lucy says "lon", while the other kids say "linn" (the latter is correct, incidentally). However, when Charlie Brown says it for the last time, while under the tree, he says "lon" at the end.

--Is Peppermint Patty's look of consternation after Marcie's wink out of jealousy, or anger, or disappointment? Is she peeved to have a rival for Chuck's heart, or does she feel for her friend, knowing that Charlie Brown will never return either of the girls feelings?

Charlie Brown could never love a girl who kicks his ass at sports, or a girl who wears glasses. You Just Made Two Little Girls Into Lesbians, Charlie Brown.

1 comment:

  1. I love Snoopy's little tank top when he's disguised as the Masked Marvel. He looks so cute!!! :):):):):)