HomeTelevisionCouch Potato – Good Grief, Apple TV+ 

Couch Potato – Good Grief, Apple TV+ 

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Photo Credit: PBS/Apple TV+

Editor’s Note: This column was written prior to the news that PBS has made a deal with Apple to broadcast the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Christmas specials this year. Given that this arrangement will only take place this year and was only announced after fan backlash to Apple’s acquisition of the holiday specials, I stand by my previously stated opinions and believe my argument is still valid.

Charlie Brown and the Peanuts franchise have had a messy, contradictory relationship with capitalism for decades. Despite how frequently it criticizes the growth of commercialism and materialism in the Christmas season, 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas was co-sponsored by Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison and included ads for the beverage in its original broadcast. More recently, Snoopy and company have been used in promotions for insurance, made appearances during Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and can be met at Dorney Park. Go to your local Hallmark store, and you might find more Snoopy memorabilia than greeting cards.

Despite its embrace of capitalism, though, Peanuts remains known for its sincerity, its charming portrayal of childhood, and its reflection of its creator’s values and Christian beliefs. Snoopy continues to be one of the most iconic and beloved characters in America. Charlie Brown remains a hopeful symbol of endurance in the face of constant setbacks, whether it’s the inability to win a baseball game or continued failure to fly a kite. For many of us, the Peanuts comics and specials are a comforting, reassuring presence much like Linus’s security blanket.

Given how much Charlie Brown and his friends mean to so many people, I was not surprised by the backlash to the news that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas would be moving exclusively to Apple TV+. Yes, Peanuts has a long of history of going commercial and bowing to the will of major corporations. And yes, Apple TV+ is letting audiences stream the specials for free three days in October, November, and December. But nonetheless, moving the specials to Apple TV+ after they’ve been on network television for decades feels like a betrayal. Like Lucy pulling the football away moments before Charlie Brown can kick it, Apple’s acquisition and exclusive streaming of the specials is a predictable but exasperating move.

Even with its free availability for a limited time, shifting the specials from ABC to a JV streaming service will dramatically reduce audiences’ access to these holiday classics. Families without a pre-existing Apple TV+ account are at an immediate disadvantage; moreover, households with spotty or no Wi-Fi and technologically challenged caregivers may not even be able to access Apple TV+. By comparison, broadcasting the specials annually on a basic cable network (originally on NBC and then on ABC starting in 2001) meant that almost everyone with a television could watch these classic cartoons each year as long they tuned in on the right day and time. I would even argue that the Peanuts specials only became so popular because they were so accessible year after year. Reducing access to these cartoons by transferring them to a second-tier streaming service, then, contradicts fifty years of television tradition.

Even worse, though, the move to Apple TV+ is the latest and perhaps most glaring example of how Charlie Brown has lost the battle against consumerism. Alongside the franchise’s never-ending merchandise and use in advertisement, the Apple acquisition totally clashes with the main theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas. If the commercialization of Christmas is such a problem, why is the cartoon being presented by one of the biggest companies in the world? How can a holiday special lament that society is forgetting the true meaning of Christmas when that special is presented by a company that monetizes and profits off of the holidays? The very idea is (at best) ironic and (at worst) dishonest. The whole arrangement smacks of hypocrisy.

Much like Charlie Brown lying on his back and gazing up at the sky after Lucy has once again yanked the football out of reach, I am forced to wonder why I didn’t see this coming and scold myself for being tricked yet again. Charlie Brown might kick the football next year, but my feelings of disappointment will remain.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will air on all PBS affiliates and AppleTV+ November 25-27 for free.

Josh Sarnecky
Josh Sarnecky
Josh Sarnecky is one of Pop Break's staff writers and covers Voltron: Legendary Defender, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things. His brother, Aaron, also writes for the website, but Josh is the family’s reigning Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars champion.

Most Recent

Stay Connected