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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Pretty Good Ol Charles Schulz

"American Masters’ " profile of "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz today (9-10:30 p.m., Channels 48, 16 and Insight Channel 23) answers many questions about how the Charlie Brown cartoons mirrored the life of a lonely child from Minneapolis, Minn.

But at the end of the 90-minute show, viewers will be left with many more questions unanswered in the profile.

American Masters did a great job assmbling old B&W photos, home movies and interviews with family members, longtime friends and former coworkers. His old friends always refer to him as "Sparky," his nickname, though nobody every explains that to viewers. You'll see former co-workers at the Art Instruction school, where he worked with a Charles F. Brown and Linus Maurer --who became namesakes for his cartoon strip – the Donna Wold, the little red-headed girl who spurned his romance. You'll hear Schulz's voice from interviews, but it's not made clear enough when he was interviewed or by whom. We just kind of hear his voice from time to time.

The pictures of Schulz with his first wife, Joyce, and their kids in Coffee Lane in California are great. She's the strong personality that some think "Lucy" was based on. Her daughter Meredith calls their California home "our own little Disneyland," with the pool, tennis courts, golf holes, fishing lake, etc. Meredith, and sons Monte and Craig, provide lots of great insights about their dad...until 1972, when Charles and Joyce Schulz divorced.

Then the story shifts to his apparent personality change after marrying Jean Clyde in 1973. The kids -- a big part of the story until then -- are never seen again. We don't know how old they were at the divorce, or what kind of relationship he had with them after that. Very strange.

You'll learn a lot about Schulz, for sure. You won't learn that much about his hugely popular TV shows, except for "A Charlie Brown Christmas," his first TV special." Again, that was kind of odd.

The producers cleverly uses his old strips to illustrate what Schulz was going through or feeling in his personal life. But there are many factual gaps in the show that could frustrate viewers. I know I was.


at 10/30/2007 4:20 PM Blogger Toddy-O said...


During the portion I watched, it looked like the producers staged b-roll shots of classrooms, church shots, etc. (and then added bogus film noise). I mean, how many home movies from the 50's would include really good stable reaction shots of audiences????

Not good for a documentary.

Good Grief!

at 10/31/2007 12:06 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost sorry I watched the OLD Peanuts, which was good til the start of the domestic life, who cares how many wives he had. Very bad evening and disappointing
when I thought it would be fun to see cartoons.

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