I have a strange relationship with broadcast television. I barely watch it, and when I do, it’s mostly for sports or reruns of television from the 1950s. However, I feel incredibly protective of the idea of broadcast television, the great bastion of culture that it is, the bellwether of society, the center of the ever-fading monoculture, yadda yadda yadda…
While I barely watch broadcast TV, I do follow the news of it. The cancellations, the hirings, the firings, the ratings, all of it. Above all, I follow the programming decisions. Is it mostly so I can know when The Rifleman will be airing on MeTV? Yes. But also, it’s so I can track when my so-called “event programs” will be airing.
What’s an event program? Well, for most people, it’s something like the Super Bowl, or the season finale of a show, or a presidential debate (RIP). As a member of “people”, those are events for me too! But it’s holiday programming that really wets my whistle. Specifically the -ber holidays: Halloween (October), Thanksgiving (November), and Christmas (December). And if I have to throw a September holiday in there, uh, I pick Emma M. Nutt Day.
By far the most important holiday event programming in my life are the Peanuts TV specials. Every year, without fail, I look forward to watching them live, clearing my evening so I’ll have time to watch it just then, just as people did before these new-fangled VCRs or DVRs or DVDs of streaming. Getting all nice and cozy on the couch, forgetting everything that’s going on in the world for an hour, and relaxing to the sweet tones of Vince Guaraldi. Perfect!
That won’t be happening this year, unfortunately. Peanuts announced that It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! will be streaming exclusively on Apple TV+ this holiday season. Upon hearing this, I may have threatened to fight the CEO of Apple.
Obviously, I’m not a fan of this decision. Completely selfishly, it’s really messing up my plans! I was ready to hunker down and watch some ABC! But on a larger level, I guess I’m upset about this because of the reduced access that people will have. Sure, it’ll be streaming for free right around Halloween, but that still requires knowledge of how to get Apple TV+, and knowledge that the special is actually on the service. When it airs on TV, all you have to do is check the paper or look at the guide on TV to see when you can find The Great Pumpkin.
Putting the special on a streaming service also removes the event aspect of the show. Sure, you’ve been able to watch The Great Pumpkin whenever you want since the first tape of the special came out in the late 80s. But there’s some difference between streaming services and physical media that I can’t put my finger on. Is it the “at your fingers” ease vs. finding the tape and making an effort to put it in the machine? Whatever it is, it’s a difference of the soul.
I sound like a crotchety 80 year old man. For the record, I was born 31 years after The Great Pumpkin first aired, so I’m actually a crotchety 22 year old little boy. Maybe putting the special on a streaming service is a good thing. It could open the eyes of a whole new generation who may have never even watched a broadcast TV in their life. And if that’s the case, I’m all for it. I’ll still be watching it this year, on Blu-Ray, maybe even adding in my own personal commercial breaks to make it feel like it usually does.
But I’ll still miss the excitement of the broadcast fading in, entirely out of my control, like God fated it that It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown air at this specific date and time.
“You didn’t tell me you were gonna kill it!” – Linus van Pelt.