Friday, July 1, 2011
From The Peanuts Gallery: Shermy
It's July and that means it's Christmas in July here in Tulgey Wood, for that jolly season is just a half-year away. To get things off to a truly true-spirit-of-Christmas start, let's turn to that most famous of TV holiday specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of the most interesting things about this endlessly fascinating TV special from 1965 is that it's a snapshot of the strip as it was then (for example, the special shows Snoopy performing impressions but he had not yet regularly taken to wearing costumes or walking upright as a usual habit yet). So the special features Frieda, Violet, Patty, and even 5—and Shermy too. In fact this apperance in one of the most widely-seen Christmas specials ever produced (it's been shown on network TV ever since its debut on December 9, 1965, to huge ratings each year) is one of the main reasons Shermy is remembered, if at all. Poor Shermy deserves better if only because this mild-mannered crew-cut sporting boy was not only one of the strip's original cast of characters in the first installment published on October 2, 1950, along with Charlie Brown and Patty (Snoopy joined the strip two days later), he's also the first character to speak, and also the first (again) to not only mention Charlie Brown by name but also the first to utter the famous line "Good Ol' Charlie Brown," which Schulz immortalized as the unofficial title of the comic strip. Thankfully Shermy himself is immortalized in A Charlie Brown Christmas for he both dances up a storm in the famously free-form dance sequences so well-remembered by most everyone whose seen this animated film and has his very own line: "Every Christmas it's the same: I always end up playing a shepherd." This is Shermy's lament upon being handed his script and costume for his role in the pageant. Perhaps this was some unconscious or even deliberate commentary on Shermy's own position in the strip: he is perennially as a bit player. Personally I have always considered Shermy the Zeppo Marx of the Peanuts gang, and I don't mean that as an insult. Only Zeppo, as a full-fledged Marx Brother, could get away with some of the actions and dialog he was afforded in his few films, even though the lion's share of the laughs and onscreen action was given to Groucho, Chico and Harpo. And so it is with Shermy: he may not have had much face time in the strip or specials, but only a full-fledged Peanuts cast member would be allowed such wry observations. See this little-known Charlie Brown booklet for another Christmas-related example of Shermy's prescience.