"The Great Pumpkin" first appeared in the Peanuts comic strip in the early 1960s. Each Halloween season, Linus Van Pelt would get all worked up for nothing- anticipating the arrival of this mythical character in the most sincere pumpkin patch-and always facing disappointment when the GP doesn't come through for him. Linus' blind faith in the unknown was a recurring theme that fans of the strip looked forward to for dozens of years. The boy's humiliation is brief because there's always hope for next year. I've always found this sweet sentiment somewhat depressing - but it made for an entertaining comic strip.
In 1966, after the success of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS - CBS premiered what would turn out to be the most-popular and best-loved Halloween cartoon ever, IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN. With a gloomy jazzy soundtrack and wonderful "graphic blandishment", this special evokes the season of autumn like no other.
Each autumn, children (and adults) everywhere would turn in with great anticipation in hopes that maybe this year The Great Pumpkin will indeed appear and all will be right in the world for once - and perhaps Lucy Van Pelt will let Charlie Brown kick a football without pulling it away. Don't bet on that either.Linus even recruits young Sally Brown to sit out in the pumpkin patch with him, thereby missing her first chance of participating in "tricks or treats". Of course, the GP never does show up, but the melancholia doesn't end there. Our pathetic hero Charlie Brown is finally invited to a party with the rest of the kids. Or is he? Turns out crabby Lucy soon informs him that there were two lists, people to invite and people not to invite and Charlie's name was on wrong list. (Spoiler: he manages to show up at the party anyhow - and the girls use his bald head as a model for their pumpkin).
When the kids are putting on their Halloween costumes, Lucy deliciously delivers the best line in the show when she informs the gang that "a person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality" and then dons a a wicked green witch mask. Classic! Things go from bad to worse for Charlie when every house that the kids visit gives out treats, but Charlie Brown reaches into his bag and declares "I got a rock." Following this is an unbearably over-long fantasy sequence involving Snoopy pretending to be a World War One flying ace. Luckily we have fast-forward buttons nowadays.Linus sums it all up best when he tells us that "there are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin." Amen, brother.The special aired on CBS every season until 2001-when ABC purchased the rights to the classic Peanuts specials and padded them with some poor-quality extras, expanding the show to an hour's length. It airs this Tuesday night at 8PM on ABC. But for some reason, it's just not the same.
Meanwhile, every year Linus continues to get mocked for his beliefs, but somehow he perseveres. You gotta admit, the kid is admirable in his unwavering devotion to The Great Pumpkin and that things will be different next time, but maybe it's about time he gets some pharmaceutical or psychiatric help.