Today it's a beloved mainstay of the Christmas television setlist, but the 1965 animated musical A Charlie Brown Christmas nearly did not air. The CBS executives hated what they had on their hands, and it was only a “commitment to their sponsor” that got it onto people's TV screens, says Mental Floss.
One of the show's producers, Lee Mendelson, said in an interview with the MediaPost's Adam Buckman that the CBS execs were not at all enthused about the show going to air:
"They just didn’t, for whatever reason, like the show,” he said. “The first thing they said was: ‘Well, it’s going to go on next week. There’s nothing we can do about it,’ but I remember them saying it will probably be the first and last Charlie Brown show."
So what did the CBS heads think was wrong with the show? Pretty much everything, says Al Jazeera:
The television special had been made quickly and on the cheap, being completed just 10 days before it was scheduled to air. It was characterized by a number of artistic decisions that the network, CBS, hated. They didn’t like that actual children, instead of professional actors, had been used to voice the characters. They didn’t like the “adult themes” of commercialization and overt consumerism. And they didn’t like the jazz soundtrack.
But the American public, and critics, thought differently.
As many as 15.4 million viewers tuned in, says Mental Floss, and the show went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program. “The reviews were nearly unanimous in their praise,” says Al Jazeera. “The soundtrack album has never gone out of print.”