What if Charles Shultz pitched his script for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in 2008 instead of 1964?
We explore that very theme in this week’s edition of:
“SCRIPTS OUT OF TIME!”
The setting: Two TV network executives meeting with Charles Schulz at their office.
The time: Present day.
1st Network Executive: Well, Mr. Schulz, we like your script. We really like it a lot.
2nd Network Executive: Love it.
Charles Schulz: That’s excellent news! So we’ll make it into a TV special then?
1st Exec.: Of course we will!
Charles Schulz: That’s just terrific. I’ve slaved over this thing for 2 solid years.
1st Exec.: And it shows, Mr. Schulz. Now, we only have a few changes for you. Your script is THAT solid. These are minor changes, really.
2nd Exec.: Negligible.
Charles Schulz: Hey, I had to expect some changes, right? Go right ahead.
1st Exec.: Good! Now starting with your choice of font…
Charles Schulz: WHAT?
1st Exec.: Just a joke there, Mr. Schulz.
2nd Exec.: Ice breaker. Sans serif and all that.
(The two executives exchange a laugh.)
1st Exec.: Now, our first item is this Charlie Brown fellow. Great character, by the way. Terrific name.
2nd Exec.: Good old Brownie.
1st Exec.: He’s down. He’s down about Christmas. I
understand where he’s coming from. Who doesn’t get down about the
holidays every once in a while? The shopping, the traffic, the throngs
of crazy people at Fred Segal… You know that I couldn’t even valet
down there last Saturday?
2nd Exec.: Madness.
1st Exec.: You ever go down there, Schulzy? To Fred Segal?
Charles Schulz: Not really.
1st Exec.: They have great menswear.
2nd Exec.: Phenomenal sport jackets.
1st Exec.: Where was I?
2nd Exec.: Depressed round-headed kid.
1st Exec.: Oh yes. The point is, I know he’s down,
but does this Charlie Brown kid have to be SO down? I mean we
practically open the whole special with him sticking his round head
into his empty mailbox and remarking: “I know nobody likes me, why do
we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”
2nd Exec.: Where’s that?
1st Exec.: Page 2.
2nd Exec.: First Act. Not good.
1st Exec.: Here on page 6 he says, “I guess I don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas and that’s why I’m so depressed”.
2nd Exec.: Wow. Guess I skipped that part.
1st Exec.: Just a short page and a half later you
have the Lucy character telling him, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it, we
all know Christmas is a big commercial racket.”
2nd Exec.: Little ingrate.
1st Exec.: In fact, during the entire length of the
32-page script, Charlie Brown and his friend Linus spend most of their
time complaining that Christmas is too commercial.
2nd Exec.: Probably not going to help us sell a lot of those Dolly Madison pies…
1st Exec.: Now, Charles. Can I call you Charles? We
don’t want to rewrite you or anything, but is there a way you can tone
it down a little? I like a depressed kid. In fact, I have 2 or 3 of
them at home worrying that we’ll run out of gas before they get their
hands on my M-Class Mercedes. That’s normal.
But you’ve got this little kid who has virtually no friends, is
suffering from chronic depression, and is dependent on a money-grubbing
“psychiatrist” for help. You end the whole thing by having him
humiliate himself by bringing a twiggy little tree into the auditorium
for the Christmas school play. Page 30 has every person in the cast
laughing at him, including his own dog.
2nd Exec.: I like that part where the kids are dancing.
1st Exec.: Honestly, as much as we like this script, if you don’t change this stuff, we’re going to have to pass.
2nd Exec.: Find another network. Maybe Lifetime.
Charles Shultz: Well…
1st Exec.: Look, Chucky, this isn’t art. This is a
half-hour cartoon. 22 short minutes without the commercials. It’s not
like anyone will be watching this 30 years from now.
2nd Exec.: Short attention span.
1st Exec.: So what do you say, Chuckster? Do we have a deal?
Charles Schulz: I guess I could incorporate a few of your changes…
1st Exec.: Fantastic! I’ll have my girl get you the papers.
2nd Exec.: Latte?
1st Exec.: Lattes all around! This is great news, really.
Charles Schulz: Terrific.
2nd Exec.: Perfect for the holiday season.
1st Exec.: Oh jeez, thanks, I almost forgot. We do have one more minor change…
2nd Exec.: A trifling.
Charles Schulz: Which is?
1st Exec.: Can you rewrite this thing without using the word “Christmas”?