Every year at this time, the topic comes up around our house: “What is your favorite Christmas show?” Every year I give the same answer. That little ol’ half hour special that first aired in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Oh, the scene with the sad looking Christmas tree is nice, the kids singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” is touching, but the most daring moment of any Christmas special is when Linus teaches Charlie Brown the real meaning of Christmas and he recites Luke Chapter 2 from the King James Version of the Bible.
The Linus monologue lasts about a minute, but for Christians, it is one of the most compelling minutes of TV, ever.
The fight behind the scenes over including that segment with Linus was intense. Creator Charles Schultz and Producer Bill Melendez were adamant that the scene with Linus was essential to the show. Producers at CBS thought it was too provocative and wanted it excluded. They also thought viewers would not sit through somebody, especially a cartoon child, reading Bible verses. It has been described as a “fierce battle” to the point where Schultz was willing to drop the entire project if the segment with Linus was excluded. “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” he once said.
When A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired it was seen by an incredibly large 50% of the nation’s TV audience. A 50 share, if you will. Amazing numbers, even back in the Golden Age of TV.
Today, and ever since, Christmas specials are produced with watered down messages of Christmas. They tell stories of love, giving, friendship, and family. All great specials sharing important messages given by reindeer, snowmen, puppets, and mis-fit toys.
One special goes fearlessly to the heart of the matter, the birth of Christ. For that reason, to this day, A Charlie Brown Christmas stands alone. Thanks to the late Charles Schultz, who knew the true meaning of Christmas and left us that brilliant legacy that we can watch year after year in prime-time.
Follow Ron Futrell on Twitter @RonFutrell