On October 27 1966, a round-headed kid tried to kick a football, only to have his loud-mouth tormentor yank it away at the last second. Tonight, for the 50th time, Charlie Brown will give it another shot, even though he knows his frenemy Lucy wants to see him "land flat on my back and kill myself." But wait, this time Lucy has a signed document. Well that makes it official, there's no way she can be lying about holding the football steady...
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the best holiday cartoon, bar none. (The Christmas episode gets all the glory, but it's way more churchy than funny.) Tonight's pre-Halloween showing on ABC marks its golden anniversary. I've probably caught forty of them and every year, a little part of me hopes that this is the one where Charlie Brown not only boots one deep, but also doesn't end tricks-or-treats with a bag full of rocks. (Fun fact: For years, people sent goodies to Charles Schultz's office for the beloved cartoon person.) The annual special is best remembered for poor Linus and poorer Sally wasting away the Fright Night in a pumpkin patch—missing out on candy, costumes, bobbing for apples, and canine kisses—all due to blind faith in a magical squash.
From a sporting standpoint, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is important because it marked the first time Lucy pulled a fast one on the would-be George Blanda outside of the funny pages. (Unfun fact: The football sequence is sometimes cut "for time," aka "more ads for sugary crap your kids don't need.") And as we approach the 100th-anniversary of American entry in the "war to end all wars," the Peanuts special also marked the animated debut of the World War I Flying Ace piloting his Sopwith Camel against the dreaded Red Baron.
Which is to say, there's a lot going on in Great Pumpkin. It contains multitudes. We are all Charlie Brown, continually banging our blockhead against the wall in this thing called life, but we are also Linus, wide eyes open to the possibilities of what's out there for us. We are Sally, cold, sad, and Butterfinger-less but still yearning for love, and we are all Lucy, the hardass who gets things done.
If somehow, inexplicably, you've never seen It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, get home early, caramel up an apple, and get cozy on the couch.
After 50 years, this time, Charlie Brown is gonna kick that football. I just know it.