Category Archives: Television

It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976, Phil Roman)

It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown opens with Charlie Brown (Dylan Beach) and Linus (Liam Martin) making vaguely sexist cracks about Linus’s mother’s ability to ride her bicycle. Just as you’re thinking writer Charles M. Schulz is taking it a little far, he cuts to baby Rerun (Vinny Dow) on the back of the bike who gives his take on he and Mom’s day and it’s a perfect pivot. It changes the tone and trajectory of the scene, while also introducing the idea of visual constraints.

Arbor Day has a lot of great visuals–there’s a trip to the library, the whole ball field thing (I’ll explain in a minute)–but director Roman keeps them background to some degree. He and the animators concentrate on the foreground movement and action. It’s strong direction from Roman, even while sometimes the animation is a little too static on figures or expressions. Overall, the animation’s quite good, just sometimes a tad too functional; if the detail is a little off, the pragmatic animation only aggravates it.

But these weaker moments are few and only annoying because they screw up otherwise excellent scenes. There’s quite a bit of Sally (Gail Davis) flirting with Linus and one time the animation on Sally’s eyes throws the scene askew. Davis is excellent, Martin is good, so the scene should be one of the stronger dialogue-based ones in Arbor, but it hangs. Because of the animation detail.

Arbor Day has good dialogue-based bits and good physical comedy bits. Snoopy and Woodstock get the majority of the physical comedy ones. While the special is about Arbor Day–with Sally doing a report on it, so built-in exposition–it’s more about the first ball game of the season and how the Peanuts kids’ take on Arbor Day affect it.

And the ball game is great. The pragmatic animation plays well with the sports action, which is awesome. Arbor Day just gets better as it goes along. I mean, sure, the Arbor Day stuff is just affixed to a baseball game story but whatever.

The game’s against Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman, who’s great). Schulz likes his pairs in Arbor Day. Sally and Linus, Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown, Woodstock and Snoopy. Lucy (Sarah Beach) feels like a special guest star more than a regular cast member. And the gentle affections between Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown really play well. Arbor Day has a good arc for Charlie Brown and Dylan Beach does a fine job on the performance.

Arbor Day doesn’t have an inspired or ambitious narrative, it’s instead this expert execution of a twenty-five minute “Peanuts” special. Schulz and Roman have it down here. The characterizations are great, the performances are good, the Snoopy stuff is good, the game is good, the finale is great. Nice score from Vince Guaraldi. It’s just an ideal Charlie Brown special.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Dylan Beach (Charlie Brown), Stuart Brotman (Peppermint Patty), Gail Davis (Sally Brown), Liam Martin (Linus van Pelt), Vinny Dow (Rerun van Pelt), and Sarah Beach (Lucy van Pelt).


RELATED

Advertisements

You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (1975, Phil Roman)

Most of You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown is a motocross race. There are a bunch of kids in the race–organized by Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman)–but the only two racers who matter are Charlie Brown (Duncan Watson) and Snoopy, “disguised” as The Masked Marvel. The race is beautifully plotted. Charles M. Schulz’s script is good throughout, but the race stands out. It’s not overly dramatic, it’s just good. Whether it’s Charlie Brown chugging along on his broken down bike or Snoopy having time for a picnic, the animation is always good, the interlude pacing is always good, it just works.

With the exception of the ending, which is soft, Schulz’s script doesn’t have a weak moment. Roman’s direction is always good, the animation is always good, the voice acting is always good. If not better. Jimmy Ahrens’s Marcie is phenomenal here; Marcie gets the job of race announcer and, much to everyone’s surprise, immediately becomes a real sports journalist.

The short opens with Sally (Gail Davis) and Linus (Liam Martin) getting a scene. Davis’s real good, Martin’s fine, but it’s a great scene. The title is a little misleading because at no point is Charlie Brown ever (neccesarily) a good sport. It just seems like it’s going to involve sports and Sally and Linus going to play tennis is, you know, sports.

But they can’t play because Snoopy’s got a match going against a mystery opponent. That match’s punchline is when Sports all of a sudden gets really good. The match itself is long, but needs to be for the punchline.

Then the actual story starts, with Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman) arriving and telling all the other kids about motocross. Charlie Brown and Linus get a crappy bike so they can participate. Once the race starts, Sports stops being predictable until it’s over. Schulz has puts Chekov’s gun on the wall in the first act, but it’s not neccesarily for firing. Sports has a strong script. Right up until the mediocre close.

Roman’s direction is really good, the animation is excellent, the Vince Guaraldi seventies cool(ish) jazz score is great, Sports is a good outing for Charlie Brown and company.

Though it does seem to ignore how Charlie Brown (maybe subconsciously) obviously knows the Masked Marvel’s identity.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Duncan Watson (Charlie Brown), Stuart Brotman (Peppermint Patty), Gail Davis (Sally Brown), Liam Martin (Linus van Pelt), and Melanie Kohn (Lucy van Pelt).


RELATED

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975, Phil Roman)

There’s not a lot of story in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. It’s almost Valentine’s Day and Charlie Brown (Duncan Watson) is anxious to receive some valentines. Meanwhile, Linus (Stephen Shea) has a crush on his teacher, much to the chagrin of Sally (Lynn Mortensen).

Those plots are it. Everything else either supports Charlie Brown and Linus’s story or is just padding. Sally gets some scenes, but it’s Linus’s plot line. And they’re padded.

Some of the padding is charming. Valentine has some iffy graphic blandishment and that iffiness works against the charm. Some of the padding is just padding too. There’s this lengthy sequence where Snoopy is putting on a play and Lucy (Melanie Kohn) gets suckered into seeing it. Charlie Brown narrates and, even though it doesn’t really fit and isn’t particularly successful, there’s some creativity to the vingette. The scenes for the main stories? They’re awkward. Especially the third act, which takes place on Valentine’s Day. The kids in school, getting their valentines.

Director Roman–and his graphic blandishers–don’t take a lot of time executing the scene. It’s a long scene, there’s plenty of time to execute it better, they just don’t. Sometimes it gets worse. Plus, there are these weird “Peanuts” continuity errors–like Peppermint Patty and Marcie being in the classroom (silent) when they’re supposed to go to a different school. It makes you wonder how closely Roman and the animators followed the Charles M. Schulz script.

Of course, while Schulz gets the sole writing credit, they are seven credited story writers. And Valentine feels like there are eight sets of hands in it. It’s all over the place.

Linus’s resolution is also poorly executed. It’s extremely padded. Literally extremely padded. Editors Roger Donley and Chuck McCann hold this shot where nothing is happening on screen and there’s no sound suggesting anything happening for most of it and it just hangs. Valentine stalls. Literally this time instead of figuratively.

There’s some fun Snoopy stuff–outside the play–and some okay, if not enough, material for Lucy–but it all hinges on Linus and Charlie Brown’s stories. And then it sabotages them through plodding plotting.

Valentine is too rote. Especially Vince Guaraldi’s score.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; teleplay by Charles M. Schulz, based on a story by Joseph A. Bailey, Jerry Juhl, Emily Perl Kingsley, Norman Stiles, Paul D. Zimmerman, David Korr, and Ray Sipherd and characters created by Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Duncan Watson (Charlie Brown), Stephen Shea (Linus van Pelt), Lynn Mortensen (Sally Brown), Melanie Kohn (Lucy van Pelt), Greg Felton (Schroeder), and Linda Ercoli (Violet).


RELATED

The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988, Nicholas Corea)

The Incredible Hulk Returns is severely lacking. It’s severely lacking pretty much everything. Despite being set in and filmed in Los Angeles, the movie looks generic and constrained–director Corea has a truly exceptional aversion to establishing shots. The interior shots often have a different visual feel. More like video (Returns was shot on film, but edited on video). The video feel makes everything seem more immediate. But the last thing Returns has is immediacy. It lacks an immediacy, even though it’s incredibly dramatic.

No pun.

The movie’s set an indeterminate time since the TV series ended, but two years since Bill Bixby has turned into Lou Ferrigno. He’s in L.A. making a gamma ray to cure himself and romancing fellow scientist Lee Purcell. Despite a not too big thirteen year age difference, Bixby and Purcell lack chemistry. They’re not bad together, they just don’t seem into one another. The script tries too hard to make them cute and they’re not. The dialogue’s real bad on their romance too. There’s a lack of affection, even implied.

It doesn’t really matter because Purcell’s not important. She even gets kidnapped at one point and manages not to be important. The movie willfully ignores her. Because after the first act, it becomes a pilot for a “Thor” TV show and not really a Hulk TV movie.

Bixby’s about to cure himself when annoying rogue nerdy but late eighties nerdy cool doctor (medical doctor… sure, why not) Steve Levitt shows up. Seems Levitt’s gone and found himself an ancient Viking war hammer and become bound to giant, buff, blond Viking warrior god Eric Allan Kramer. Pretty soon Kramer is fighting Ferrigno and they break the lab, causing a big problem for Bixby.

Except not because they just fix up the lab, much to the chagrin of Bixby’s boss’s little brother, Jay Baker. Baker works his ass off in The Incredible Hulk Returns. He takes this movie really, really seriously. More seriously than anyone else, including Charles Napier playing a Cajun mercenary without a Cajun accent but TV Cajun speech patterns. It’s painful. Anyway. Baker. He tries. He’s also a corrupt little shit who hates his older brother John Gabriel. Baker doesn’t like Bixby much either. Or Levitt. They work too hard. Not really a subplot, but it comes up a couple times and it’s a lot of character development for Returns. Baker goes wild with it.

The movie utterly fails him, of course, but he does try. No one else really tries. Tim Thomerson doesn’t try as the villain. He’s also a Cajun but he’s ashamed of it. Or so Napier implies. Because Corea’s script for Returns puts more effort into the back story on the industrial mercenaries than on its lead female actor. Oh, wait. It’s only female actor. Purcell manages to weather Returns with dignity. Maybe having less to do helps.

Bixby’s completely flat throughout. He’s default likable, but never anything more. He’s not bored or condescending to the material or anything. He’s just completely flat. He’s supposed to have figured out some zen thing to control the Hulk but still. A lot of it is probably the script. Or Correa’s direction. Neither succeed at all.

Regarding Baker and his valiant efforts in his role–he’s not auditioning for a series. Levitt and Kramer would be the leads on the “Thor” show and, although Kramer does try, he doesn’t try as hard. And Levitt is exceptionally bland. Again, some of it’s the script. Some isn’t.

Kramer at least has fun. But his character is supposed to enjoy having fun. No one else in the movie enjoys anything. Not even Ferringo enjoys breaking things. Then again Correa kind of gives Ferringo the worst stuff in the movie. Not just the script or how Correa directs him–though I guess Ferrigno does get a couple spotlight action sequences–but also the make-up. When Ferrigno needs to do “Hulk sad,” he can do it. Shame Correa only has him emote twice in the movie.

Jack Colvin (from the “Hulk” TV show) comes back too. He’s barely got a part and spends a lot of his screen time talking on phones. He’s not good but he’s not terrible.

The music from Lance Rubin needs to be heard to be believed. At least for the first thirty or so minutes. Then there’s less or different music, but Rubin’s action sequence music? It’s loud, fast, layed, and terrible. There’s one good bit of music–when not using the show theme–and it’s a shock, because it suggests Rubin can do different approaches. He actually can’t. The good bit was anomalous.

The Chuck Colwell photography is bad. But is it because Colwell’s work is bad or because Correa doesn’t really do the whole shot composition thing. Either way, the result is bad. The movie never looks right. Or good. Unlike some things, the bad photography is quite bad. It isn’t just not good. It’s bad.

I suppose at the very least, The Incredible Hulk Returns is never boring. It’s just never good. And it’s often bad. Correa does a rather poor job, both at the directing and the writing.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Nicholas Corea; teleplay by Corea, based on the Marvel comic book created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Chuck Colwell; edited by Janet Ashikaga and Briana London; music by Lance Rubin; executive produced by Bill Bixby and Corea; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Bill Bixby (David Banner), Steve Levitt (Donald Blake), Eric Allan Kramer (Thor), Lee Purcell (Maggie Shaw), Jack Colvin (Jack McGee), Tim Thomerson (Jack LeBeau), Charles Napier (Mike Fouche), John Gabriel (Joshua Lambert), Jay Baker (Zack Lambert), and Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk).


RELATED