A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving debuted in 1973, which makes this year its 40th anniversary. But in case you missed it any time over those 40 years, I thought we could give a scene-by-scene run-down of the show. Enjoy!
Scene 1/ Opening: Lucy, spouting off about tradition and honor, once again tricks Charlie Brown into trying to kick the football; naturally, she pulls it away at the last second. “Isn’t it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away?” asks Lucy—an ironic observation, indeed, especially considering that some newspapers are still running Peanuts cartoons, even though Charles Schulz died twelve years ago. (Ol’ Charlie does get his revenge against Lucy, though: she doesn’t appear for the rest of the episode.)
Scene 2: Charlie Brown and his sister Sally are bemoaning the impending Thanksgiving holiday: Sally is upset that she has to write an essay on “Stanley Miles” (she means Myles Standish, of course); and Charlie Brown is glum because… well, because he’s Charlie Brown. Linus enters the scene and does what he does best: spinning security-blanket wisdom (this time, about the importance of giving thanks) and putting people in their places.
Scene 3: The plot thickens. Peppermint Patty calls up Charlie Brown and invites herself, her minion Marcie, and her friend Franklin over for Thanksgiving dinner. Charlie Brown, ever hapless, tries to tell her he’s not going to be home—his family is going to his grandmother’s—but he never gets a chance. Oh, Charlie Brown, you lovable goof! Just when all seems lost, Linus comes up with a solution: have two dinners! One for his friends, and one for his family. (Man, that Linus can solve anything! Why isn’t he in charge of our health care system?
Scene 4: Snoopy, charged with helping to set up for the impromptu dinner, enlists the aid of his friend Woodstock. Hilarity ensues: Snoopy gets crushed in a ping-pong table, Woodstock gets flattened by a basketball, and Snoopy inexplicably gets into fight with an anthropomorphic lounge chair. All to the mellow tones of “Little Birdy”—which, incidentally, was composed and sung by Vince Guaraldi, the same guy who wrote the famed “Linus and Lucy” song. (Vince, it turns out, died suddenly of heart failure not three years after the debut of this show. He was only 47 at the time, and the day he died, he had just finished recording the music for It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. That stinks. Man, Wikipedia can be such a downer some times.)
Scene 5: Throw-away scene between Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Franklin. Best line is when Marcie asks about what they should wear, and Peppermint Patty says, “Chuck… always wears that striped shirt of his.” (Sort of speaking of which, what’s up with Franklin’s striped pants?) Why all three children are available to go to someone else’s house on Thanksgiving is never adequately explained.
Scene 6: Cue me up some good ol’ Vince Guaraldi jazz piano! Snoopy, bedecked in a chef’s hat, leads Linus, Charlie Brown, and Woodstock in a cook-a-palooza. Only instead of preparing traditional Thanksgiving grub, they make toast and popcorn. Always loved this scene. (Curious, though: by my count, the kids are employing at least sixteen toasters for this project. Where did they get all of these?)
Scene 7: Snoopy shows his mad skillz with napkin-folding and then gets on his pilgrim costume, which for some reason really peeves Woodstock, who does his “angry bird” chirping. After a protracted bit of senseless tussling, Snoopy and Woodstock make it to the house; the scene ends with Woodstock accidentally setting off Snoopy’s cork gun, leaving dog and bird in a heap on the floor.
Scene 8: The guests arrive, and despite the fact that he never wanted them there to begin with, Charlie Brown puts on a happy face (and even shows how cool he is by giving Franklin a high five). They go out back, and Linus, at Peppermint Patty’s urging, says a prayer that is basically the Thanksgiving equivalent of the “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” speech. Now, let’s eat.
Scene 9: Chef Snoopy (literally) passes out the food—a delightful mélange of popcorn, jellybeans, pretzels, and a piece of toast as big as a human head. An indignant Peppermint Patty goes off on the untraditional meal, which I always thought was weird. After all, she’s not exactly the classiest character in the world. And now she wants to be wined and dined? More importantly, to a kid, isn’t this, like, the best meal ever? Finally, what’s the deal with those pink sundae/ shake-looking things on the table? They look awesome! After Charlie Brown puts on his “I can’t do anything right” face and sulks away, Marcie lectures Peppermint Patty about manners. “Golly, why can’t I ever act right outside of a baseball game?”—Peppermint Patty.
Scene 10: Marcie—in that cute raspy voice of hers— apologizes to Charlie Brown on her boss’s behalf, reminding him and all of us that Thanksgiving is about being together. (Awwwwww!) Peppermint Patty tells Chuck they shouldn’t play lovers’ games, and the two shake hands. (“You’re holding my hand, Chuck, you sly dog!”) Suddenly, the chiming clock reminds Charlie Brown that he’s late for his grandma’s dinner. He calls her to explain the dilemma, introducing himself to her as “Charlie Brown,” which always cracks me up. As always, the grandmother—who must be an educator, because she has the same voice as every Peanuts teacher—saves the day…
Scene 11: Peppermint Patty announces to the despondent dinner-guests that everyone is invited to Charlie Brown’s grandmother’s house for a real dinner. And there was much rejoicing.
Scene 12: The six kids (Charlie Brown, Sally, Linus, and the three guests) pile into the back of a station wagon—no one cared about safety in the 1970s— and sing, “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go.” “My grandmother lives in a condominium”—Charlie Brown.
Scene 13: A lot of banging occurs inside Snoopy’s doghouse until he finally emerges with a giant turkey. That’s right: he could have fed the entire group and got Charlie Brown out of that mess. But no! Snoopy had to hoard all the food for himself. (At least, I think that’s what we’re supposed to get from this…) Snoopy and Woodstock feast, which begs the question: Is Woodstock a cannibal? He’s a bird eating another bird! Yikes! Woodstock gets the biggest half of the wishbone, and I hope his wish is the same as mine—namely, that this special remains on the air for the next forty years.