Like twinkling lights, new 'Peanuts' strings together seasonal gems

TELEVISION REVIEW

November 27, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Give yourself an early present. The kids from Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" world return in a new animated holiday special tonight on CBS.

"It's Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown," at 8:30 p.m. on WBAL (Channel 11), seems likely to join its 27-year-old predecessor, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," as a seasonal fixture. (That 1965 gem, the first "Peanuts" cartoon special, seen annually ever since, will air on CBS Wednesday.)

Why make a new "Peanuts" Christmas show? Mr. Schulz's lil' folks, as the comic strip was originally called, never grow up, after all, and the original special set the nearly perfect mold for a succession of holiday observances.

But the cast of characters has changed over the years, as the evolving "Peanuts" comic strips gently mirrored and mocked society.

Thus the new special focuses more on Sally, Charlie Brown's younger sister, odd-couple pals Marcie and Peppermint Patty, and even Charlie's girlfriend from camp, Peggy Jean, introduced in the strip this summer.

With the familiar original music of the late Vince Guaraldi as backdrop (performed by David Benoit), the show plays as a succession of holiday-theme sequences from the newspaper panels, rather than a connected narrative.

Opening scenes, for example, take a poke at commercialization of the holiday, as Charlie tries to sell yule wreaths door to door and Sally offers modern marketing tactics.

Changing gender roles get some ribbing later. Writing her gift list, Sally wonders about Mrs. Santa's name, and is jokingly told some people call her "Mary Christmas."

"Congratulations on deciding to keep your own name," she writes.

But some stereotypes are not that easily changed. Hoping to buy a gift for his girlfriend which he cannot afford, Charlie says, "I don't have a credit card," and his worldly wise sister quips, "So long, Peggy Jean."

Linus, who has always served as the religious Mr. Schulz's spiritual voice, offers some biblical roots of the holiday, Snoopy has a good laugh line, Peppermint Patty complains about having to play a sheep in the school pageant and Sally believes her role in the play is merely to say the word "hark," after which, "Harold Angel sings."

In other words, "It's Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown" is a faithful addition to the "Peanuts" TV collection.

* Note: The Sun's TV magazine this week lists the new "Peanuts" special as airing on CBS tomorrow,and not being seen locally on WBAL until the following week. However,the network made a late change to air the show tonight.

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