"You're in the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown!" (1994)

You know America is backwards when Groundhog Day is a holiday and the Super Bowl isn't.
--unknown source
Today is Super Bowl Sunday.

Today, millions of people across the country will gather around their TV sets to watch two of this season's best (or luckiest) NFL teams duke it out for the right to call themselves kings of the professional football mountain.

If you're a football fan from a city that hosts one of these two teams, it'll be a time to sit through four pulse-pounding quarters before either wallowing in defeat or basking in gridiron glory.

If you're just a football fan in general, it'll be a time to participate, whether you have a ticket or not, in the biggest televised sporting event of the year.

Or if you're like me, a graduate of a certain basketball college in the Kansas City area, it'll be a time to go to parties, eat, drink, watch the commercials and make fun of the halftime show.

Speaking of perennial losers...

This was the very first Peanuts special that didn't air on CBS. Makes sense, considering NBC was airing the Super Bowl that year.

It was also the last Peanuts special aired on TV in direct succession to the very FIRST Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas way back in 1965, as well as the last Peanuts special made before Charles Schulz's death in 2000.

Let's get one thing straight off the bat--Charlie Brown does NOT actually play in the Super Bowl in this special. If you're looking for the one where he DOES play football, you're probably thinking of It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown from 1977. I really didn't understand that one...why did everyone keep blaming HIM for losing the game when it was LUCY who pulled the football away? What kind of football player pulls the ball away from his OWN KICKER? When he's trying to make a GAME-WINNING FIELD GOAL?

But I digress.

The best way to attack this special is to split it into two parts. The first part gets underway immediately as the Birds (no relation to the band who sang "Eight Miles High") are gearing up for their postseason run for the AFL Championship. That's AFL as in "Animal Football League", which basically means you get a lot of scenes of animals standing on their hind legs and tackling each other.

Oh yeah, and Snoopy is their head coach. He is Snoopy; question it not.

Their first game is the Eastern Division Championship against their arch-rivals the Cats, and thanks to Snoopy's coaching, the Cats' general ineptitude and some reused animation, the Birds easily dominate their opponents. They win the game 38-0, are Eastern Division champions, and give Snoopy a celebratory Gator--oh wait, that's a brand name--a celebratory CHIRPade bath.

I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition!

After the opening credits, we begin the second part of this special, and what's a Peanuts special that has anything remotely to do with football without that old chestnut where Lucy holds the ball for Charlie Brown to kick only to pull it away at the last second?

Well, this gag is interrupted by the annoucement of a punt-pass-and-kick competition which all the kids decide to enter, the winner recieving a prize of a new bicycle and tickets to "the finals at the Super Bowl." I thought the Super Bowl WAS the finals...

Meanwhile, Charlie Brown takes Lucy's momentary distraction as an opportunity to try and kick that football she's still holding, with the usual results.

Chuck and Linus take some time to practice when they run into a new girl in town named Miss Melody Melody, whom they are both immediatlely smitten for, and tell her about the contest over some ice cream.

Peggy Jean, the little red-haired girl, and now her. Chuck, you sly dog.

Go on. She's pulled the football away hundreds of times. What makes you think she'll do it again?

Speaking of dogs, we go straight to the AFL East-West Conference Championship, where the birds are playing a team composed of anthropomorphic dogs this time. After some more bumblin', fumblin' and stumblin' and more reused animation, the Dogs prove to be just as hopeless as the Cats, getting pummeled 56-0 and sending the Birds off to the World Championship. And Snoopy gets another Chirpade bath.

Well, the brunt of this next part focuses on the punt-pass-and-kick competition, so we'll just talk about the visual aspects.

First off, the reason you will never find this special on DVD anywhere EVER, apart from its trademark-infringing title--all of the characters in this punt-pass-and-kick competition are all wearing helmets with NFL team logos on them. In fact, you may have also seen the NFL logo on the scoreboard during the Birds' football games. Not sure why it's there, since this is the ANIMAL Football League, but perhaps this was written before the merger.

The 49ers? I think a CHIEFS helmet would suit Charlie Brown better.
Lucy in a
RAIDERS helmet, however, is a perfect match.

Also--you know how some of the Peanuts characters have last names? Charlie and Sally Brown? Linus and Lucy Van Pelt? One strip even revealed another character's full name as "Peppermint" Patricia Reichardt.

Well, in this special we learn two more. Give a warm welcome to Franklin ARMSTRONG and Marcie JOHNSON.

Schulz didn't really consider the TV specials canon, however, since some of them had Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty going to the same school, so I'm sure they're unofficial surnames.

Getting back to the action here, Charlie Brown actually does really well in punting and throwing the ball. In fact he may very well have this competition in the bag.

That is, until Linus takes the field and trumps him by mere inches.

Linus' fleeting moment of glory is spoiled, however, thanks to a dark horse contestant: Miss Melody Melody, who leaves both of them in her dust and takes the bike and the trip to the Super Bowl. Incidentally, she's wearing a Dallas Cowboys helmet, and...didn't they win the Super Bowl that year?

Linus is noticeably crestfallen. As for Charlie Brown...hey, you came in third place. That's better than your baseball team's done...EVER. Maybe you're playing the wrong sport. Or maybe it's because Lucy's not holding the ball this time, I dunno.

Hey, Melody Melody! You've just won tickets to the Super Bowl! What are you going to do next?

Anyway, now that that's happened, let's return to AFL action, where the Birds are in the World Championship.

And who are they playing next? They've already beaten a team of football-playing cats and a team of football-playing dogs...who do they face in the Championship?

Okay, this special's getting weird.

Yes, it's the Birds against a thundering herd of bison in football uniforms for the world championship.

And it seems the Birds have had it too easy for too long. The Bison clearly have an advantage in size and a cunning strategy. The Birds are in way over their heads now as the Bison prove to be too much for them to handle. How will they pull themselves out of this hole? They're clearly over-matched! The Bison are easily dominating this game! Is there any hope for this squad of plucky avians? Somehow they'll have to come together as a team and find a way to overcome this powerful Bison attack!

Nahh, I'm just kidding. It's just more recycled animation of birds running rings around larger animals. The Birds win 68-0 and become world champions. The only difference is that this time, Lucy is there for some reason to talk down the coach and the team, and she gets the Chirpade bath this time.

Wait...didn't Buffalo LOSE the Super Bowl that year? Surreal.

Look at the ref, tossing the coin like he's done this before.

I think I see how this became the last Peanuts special for a while.

Don't get me wrong, it's not completely terrible or anything. The punt-pass-and-kick plot with Melody Melody wasn't at least. Nobody acted out of character or anything, and Marcie even got a couple of funny lines. ("Splendid Bowl"--tee hee). It's just...not very deep. Melody Melody isn't really that interesting a character--she just appears at one point to establish some kind of love triangle story and then doesn't really come back until the very end. And as for the subplot with Woodstock's football team...BISON? Seriously? I mean, I know there's a dog who can walk on his hind legs and fly in a plane first-class, but...BISON?

Well, it's only a hair MORE plausible than a football team composed entirely of birds beating other larger animal football teams by monumental blowouts.

Plus, the animation is not that great and I haven't heard such grating voices in a Peanuts special since It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. I think you could tell that after thirty-seven specials, four feature films and two TV series, by the time You're in the Super Bowl premiered, they were kind of worn out.

Still, for a Peanuts special, I suppose you could do worse. I mean, there's always It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown.

Ehhh. I prefer soccer anyways.

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