HE’S YOUR DOG CHARLIE BROWN was first broadcast in 1968 as the fifth production in the made-for-TV specials based on Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” syndicated comic strip. At this point in time, Schulz was at the peak of his creative powers the “Peanuts” series still had enough of a malicious undercurrent to make it stand out as a sublime yet raw parody of suburban childhood.
Indeed, this production has an extra thick mean streak running through it, with Snoopy at a new depth of intentional rudeness and violence. Whether throwing a rock at Linus or huffing and puffing a fully-clothed Lucy into a pool, Snoopy is a canine terror that draws the ire of Charlie Brown’s playmates. The flustered Charlie Brown decides that Snoopy needs to return to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for obedience lessons, but Snoopy instead freeloads at Peppermint Patty’s house. Initially taking the role of the houseguest from hell (complete with finger snapping to signal restaurant-worthy service), Snoopy gets his comeuppance when Peppermint Patty makes him do extra-duty housework.
HE’S YOUR DOG CHARLIE BROWN offers a wonderfully surreal environment, with Snoopy repeatedly getting lost in his fantasies as a World War I fighter ace and Peppermint Patty constantly failing to recognize her houseguest as a canine. (She keeps referring to him as a funny-looking kid with a big nose.) In a surprisingly hostile moment, an attempted reunion with Charlie Brown goes badly when Snoopy is confronted with the prospect of wearing a leash he angrily tears it apart and orders Charlie Brown out of his sight with a stiffly pointed finger.
Unlike the comic strip Snoopy, whose emotions are essayed via thought balloons, the TV version performs in total pantomime. This dialogue-free version is superior, and this production offers a joyful showcase for Schulz’s ability to write out elaborately funny gags for the legendary doggie (Snoopy starts tap-dancing to Schroeder’s piano, Snoopy’s lengthy race through the woods while clutching Linus’ blanket in his teeth with Linus still holding on to it). The special’s conclusion, with Snoopy and Lucy in a fight (he keeps licking/kissing her while she vainly attempts to punch him) is an animated mini-classic.
Schulz’s subsequent television endeavors fell into a hit-and-miss pattern, mostly veering into “miss” territory due to a watering down of the rough elements of the stories and slapstick. It is a shame, since the visceral spirit of HE’S YOUR DOG CHARLIE BROWN offers a refreshing comic peak that the series should have maintained.