Ah, A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Who doesn’t have that one in their repertoire of favorites of the season? I remember it fondly from my childhood, along with a vague memory about the Dolly Madison snake cake commercials that went with it. Dolly Madison was the exclusive sponsor of A Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and the brand wasn’t sold in California where I grew up. It seemed strange and exotic to see commercials for something you couldn’t buy even if you wanted to — which, even at age eight, struck me as a flawed marketing strategy. But I digress.

Did you know that A Charlie Brown Christmas Special almost didn’t make it on the air? That the network executives in charge of these things were sure that it would fail, and almost pulled the plug? That when it was finished, CBS agreed to air it only once, certain that once would be enough?

Let’s look this over:

  • The network executives hated, hated, HATED the jazz soundtrack. Seriously, can you imagine A Charlie Brown Christmas Special without the Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack? I can’t. That’s our family’s favorite Christmas record, we listen to it exclusively when we’re opening presents. But the network wanted standard issue cartoon music instead. Yeah. Picture that.
  • They also hated the fact that real children were used as voice actors for the special. The network felt that adult actors should be hired, and made to sound like children.
  • The network wanted a fake laugh-track added. You know, so people would know when they’re supposed to laugh.
  • The network was uncomfortable with the part where Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas. The Nativity part. “Too religious”, the suits said.
  • The original version had lots of product placement. The sign at the lake where the kids ice skate used to read “Coca Cola”.

It just goes to show — you never can tell. Merry Christmas.