When it was announced in 2020 that Apple would obtain the rights to the Peanuts TV holiday specials, I was relieved to read that they agreed to allow PBS to broadcast the films over the air. Previously, A Charlie Brown Christmas had been broadcast every year by CBS (1965-2000) and ABC (2001-2019).
This year, however, it appears that that won’t be the case, based on this tweet from PBS Kids:
Regretfully, PBS does not have the rights to distribute the Peanuts specials this year. We’ll all have to watch for the Great Pumpkin in a different pumpkin patch this Halloween.@pbskids
I suppose it’s silly of me to think that there are many people left who watch TV over the air at all anymore, or on cable. As long as you own a TV, it’s likely to be a smart TV, and likely to be able to run the Apple TV app (where the specials will air for free, even to non-subscribers, thankfully). Barring that, you likely have a smartphone, tablet, or computer where you consume all your content anyway. Practically speaking, this does not introduce a great barrier to watching the specials, even an economic one; in fact, if the specials were only available at a specific time over a legacy network, they would have a far smaller reach.
On the other hand, why am I a grown man writing about 60-year-old cartoons? Sentimentality. And aren’t the holidays largely about sentimentality and tradition to begin with? The airing of these specials at a specific time on a specific date on a specific channel at least provided the illusion that they are something we are experiencing together, simultaneously, as we have since before I was born.
What will be gone is the “eventness” of it, the specific annual televisual demarcation of the peak of Christmas season. It’s a loss.