Doing the research for yesterday’s epic “Peanuts” post hipped me to a severe injustice — one that I fear will never be remedied.
Even though Linus Van Pelt was the coolest character in “Peanuts” for close to 50 years, his name never appeared in the title of a single TV special or movie based on the comic strip.
For context, here’s a breakdown of how many times each character was identified by name in the title of a “Peanuts” special or feature film:
Charlie Brown: 55 times
Snoopy: Four times
Lucy: One time
Linus, Woodstock, Sally, Peppermint Patty, 5 95472, Jose Peterson, Crybaby Boobie, Miss Othmar, Miss Halverson, Miss Tenure and everybody else: Zero times, combined.
(This count includes movies, TV specials and anniversary specials, but not the “Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show” ’80s TV series or Snoopy’s various Ice Capades specials.)
It was not until 1985 that any character besides Charlie Brown was mentioned by name in the title of a “Peanuts” TV special, and not until 1990 that a TV special was produced without Charlie Brown’s name in the title.
That’s distinctly unfair to Linus, the longest-lasting, most interesting and most nuanced supporting character on the strip’s roster. If I were treated that poorly, I’d turn to a blanket and a thumb for solace too.
Presumably, Charles Schulz feared top billing would go to Linus’ head, and the middle Van Pelt child would leave the strip for a solo career if he ever tasted real stardom.
Linus’ lack of recognition is worth bringing up now because we’ve just recently passed the 40th anniversary of one of his closest calls with top billing.
During the 1972 election season, Schulz and his animation cohorts worked up a show based around Linus’ decision to run for class president. (I won’t spoil the outcome, except to say he did better than George McGovern.)
Perversely, they titled the show “You’re Elected, Charlie Brown.” And it originally aired under that name on October 29, 1972.
According to Wiki (which means it could be total krap), someone later pointed out to Schulz and Co. that Charlie Brown isn’t elected to anything in the show. In fact, he isn’t even a candidate.
So the show was renamed for subsequent airings, as well as VHS and DVD repackagings.
But did they call it “You’re Elected, Linus”? Nope. They called it “You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown.”
Just what the hell kind of weaksauce is that? That’s like someone making a documentary movie about the 2012 presidential election and calling it, “You’re Not Elected, Karl Rove.”
(I take some solace in noting that — when the plotline was redone in a new animated short on iTunes a few years ago — it was titled “Linus for President.” Still seems like too little, too late, though. iTunes is one thing; pre-Internet network television is another.)
Linus’ big moment can still be seen on YouTube … except it’s dubbed into Italian. Just another indignity against the gentle, canny, precocious little kid with the zealot’s eyes and the heartwarming smile.
I didn’t care; I watched it anyway.