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Television Reviews : 'Snoopy' Musical Doesn't Live Up to Its Potential

January 29, 1988|CHARLES SOLOMON

"Snoopy the Musical," an animated special airing tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS (Channels 2 and 8), casually trashes the qualities that made "Peanuts" so popular. (It's adapted from the play "Snoopy!!!," which was based on the comic strip.)

The world Charles Schulz created in his strip was innocent, insouciant, whimsical and warm; "Snoopy" is calculated, self-conscious, labored and inept. Although trimmed to fit an hour time slot, the show still seems to last as long as a summer cold.

Larry Grossman (music) and Hal Hackaday (lyrics) have written songs that the author of "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" would be embarrassed to put on paper. "Don't be the moo/If you can be the cow/Don't be the furrow/If you can be the plow" is supposed to offer a message about living up to your full potential.

Nor do the songs seem appropriate for the characters. Snoopy's ingenuous fantasies of glory have been turned into a paean to greed. Looking up at the clouds, Peppermint Patty--who regularly receives "D-minuses" on her schoolwork--sees "The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel." As there isn't anything for the cartoon figures to do while the voice actors sing, director Sam Jiames uses clips from earlier shows and old silent movies in an unsuccessful attempt to provide some visual diversion.

Audiences might forgive these flaws if "Snoopy" made a point or told a story. In "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" (1967), the characters explored their identities and discovered the affection they felt for each other. Charlie Brown sought the true meaning of the holiday in "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

But "Snoopy" is just a rehash of bits from the comic strip, some of them decades old. The characters end up exactly where they started.

Linus once complained, "There's no greater burden than a high potential." It's sad to see Schulz and his characters operating so far below theirs: They've settled for being the moo, when they could be the cow.

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