There are many other Peanuts specials besides "A Charlie Brown Christmas." There's "It's Arbor Day Charlie Brown," "You're In Love Charlie Brown," and "It's the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown," just to name a few. Most of these, with the possible exception of "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown," are nowhere near as good as the classic Christmas tale of the round-headed kid and the tiny Christmas tree.
But despite their failings, they all remain true to one central theme. Charlie Brown always comes up the loser. He never kicks the football. He never gets his kite in the air. He, and we, think that it's going to happen - we're used to the happy ending - but for Charlie Brown there's no feel-good final inning in which his baseball team pulls it out at the last minute - no miracle on ice, no comeback kid, no field of dreams.
Charlie Brown brings a briefcase to school and doesn't get one single valentine. He gets rocks for Halloween. When it's his turn, the Easter Beagle runs out of eggs. Charlie Brown is more lifelike that any Disney character and his story is more like reality than any of those pull-it-out-at-the-last-minute tales, even the true ones. Charlie Brown doesn't even seem to have the comfort of involved and understanding parents; and look - he's already in therapy.
Charlie Brown's chronicles drive home the point that life is not fair. It's not just that Charlie Brown lacks talent. When it comes to that darn football kick - it's Lucy who screws him every time. He can't catch a break. In "It's Your First Kiss Charlie Brown," our hero's team looses the homecoming game by one point because of a missed kick which was thwarted by Lucy - who must be some sort of double agent for the other team. Later in the locker room after the game the whole team comes over to berate Charlie Brown, led by team captain Peppermint Patty. No building up our hero. No saying, "we know you did your best, we'll get them next time." Even Lucy, who's really to blame, instead of apologizing, gives him the what for. "It's just not fair," you want to yell at your television, but I guess that's the point.
Life is more like Charlie Brown's football game than Breaking Away or Ice Castles or any of those other movies in which underdogs overcome the odds to make it to the big time.
And yet Charlie Brown keeps on going. Like the biblical Job, he rarely curses his fate. And in "It's Your First Kiss Charlie Brown," he does get to kiss the little red-headed girl of his dreams. Proving what Tom Petty has known all along, "even the losers, get lucky sometimes."
Good news for the rest of us.