“We've got another holiday to worry about. It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.”
So says Charlie Brown near the beginning of his Thanksgiving special, and it pretty well sets the tone for the show as Charlie tries to cope with the demands of the holiday wedged neatly between Halloween and Christmas. I think it’s fair to say that, of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is regarded as more of an ordeal than any others. A quick mental inventory of every Thanksgiving movie or special I’ve seen seems to confirm this. So while the Peanuts gang may be a cynical bunch, it seems to fit with the general outlook regarding this holiday.
Charlie Brown’s ordeal is this: Peppermint Patty has invited herself over for Thanksgiving dinner along with her friends Marcie and Franklin. The trouble is, Charlie already has plans to visit his grandmother for dinner, and he can’t cook. Linus suggests having a separate dinner beforehand. Enlisting the help of Snoopy and Woodstock, they prepare a feast of buttered toast, popcorn, pretzels and jelly beans. Patty is not impressed and demands to know where the turkey and mashed potatoes are. Charlie Brown is thoroughly humiliated. Marcie takes Patty aside to remind her of the reason for Thanksgiving, giving thanks. Patty apologizes to Chuck and, with amends having been made, Charlie calls his grandmother to explain he will be late and she invites the whole gang over. They pile into the back of the station wagon, singing “Over the river and through the woods,” despite Charlie’s misgivings that his grandmother lives in a condominium.
What makes A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving worth talking about, honestly, is the filler. Of all the Peanuts specials, this is likely the most puffed up. Not only are there the usual gags we expect to see, like Lucy and the football and Sally flirting with Linus, but there is a ton of time devoted to Snoopy and Woodstock’s high jinks. Really, this is the story of how Charlie Brown’s dog single handedly prepares a Thanksgiving meal, sort of.
Then, Snoopy is off to the kitchen. I remember as a kid being fascinated by this scene for the various styles of toasters. Later, a remarkably inordinate amount of time is devoted to Snoopy plating up each of the guests. And, in a final gag, as Charlie Brown and the others head toward grandma’s, Snoopy and Woodstock return to the doghouse to feast on the turkey and pumpkin pie that Snoopy had been holding back from the rest of the gang. Thanks to Snoopy’s dominance, this Peanuts holiday special feels a lot more “cartoony” than many of the others.
What do you think? Is A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving just a nice story? Or did I miss something? Did I leave out any of your favorite bits? And while you’re at it, tell me some of your Thanksgiving horror stories.