Spolier alert – Charlie Brown has a miserable New Year’s Eve. While it can be argued that it wasn’t all his fault since his teacher assigned his class to read War and Peace over the Christmas break, he was the only one the homework caused to have a days-long nervous breakdown. But what would the holidays be if there weren’t multiple stressors to push susceptible folks like Charlie Brown into a downward spiral of whiny self-loathing?
Enter the perpetually clueless Peppermint Patty who calls up Charlie Brown (who she refers to as Chuck when she’s not flirting with him and calling him a “sly dog”) to invite him to her New Year’s Eve party. The whole Peanuts gang is invited and it’s up to the boys to ask the girl of their dreams to dance.
Cue every boy-crazy female cast member to aggressively attempt to force their crush to ask them. Patty, Lucy, and Sally all will make modern gals cringe as they behave as if their very existence depends on some ten year old boy hooking up with them at a party highlighted by Patty singing a song that explains in excruciating detail how musical chairs works.
Charlie Brown isn’t sure he will attend due to his hyper focus on reading Leo Tolstoy’s 1000 plus page tome, but decides it’s a good chance for him to make a love connection with his own unhealthy obsession, the Little Red-Haired Girl (actually given the name of Heather in this special). Though his worst nightmare comes true and he gets his hand stuck inside the mail slot in her front door (I am desperately trying not to read some weird “fear of women” subtext into that particular sequence), she apparently isn’t home thus sparing Chuck further embarrassment.
Chuck attends the party (and brings his book) and the expected downbeat ending ensues (surely by this point, Chuck getting owned by life is borderline cliché) as Chuck falls asleep outside reading his book while Heather shows up at the party and dances with Linus since Charlie Brown is nowhere to be found. Bonus beatdown: he gets a D- on his book report!
All of this feels like a Peanuts special on autopilot. The story of Charlie Brown being a loser fails as assigning a grade school kid a book report on War and Peace over Christmas break is so absurd, it’s hard to identify with. The vignettes where other characters appear to do their patented bits such as Snoopy harassing Lucy and getting dressed up with Woodstock feel tired. (Rerun making only his second TV special appearance gets maybe the only amusing moment with his inability to blow up balloons in anything but cube and rectangle shapes).
Even Charlie Brown can only manage to halfheartedly comment on the titular holiday by saying that his New Year’s resolution is not to dread the whole year, but just dread one day at a time. Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! ends up as simply just another holiday left over to be consumed if there’s nothing else better available.
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