Over the past couple of years, streaming services have slowly been taking over our television viewing. But last month, our love affair with the streamers and their supplanting of broadcast television came to an ugly end.
In 2018, Apple, which was preparing to launch its own streaming service, acquired the rights to produce new “Peanuts” content. The deal would result in the Emmy-nominated “Snoopy In Space” on Apple TV+. But there was another result to the deal that no one was really anticipating — Apple TV+ is now the exclusive home of the “Peanuts” holiday specials. So, for the first time in decades, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” did not air on broadcast television. And “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will only air on Apple TV+ as well.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my Facebook feed so united on an issue. A petition to return the specials to broadcast TV garnered nearly 200,000 signatures. Many people felt like a family tradition had been ripped away from them during a time when we so desperately need those traditions. And I have to agree, but I would also argue that we caused this to happen.
Little by little, series on Hulu, Netflix and the other streaming services have become the watercooler shows. And our ability to watch them whenever we want has led to their popularity. That popularity has led to more and more entertainment companies introducing their own services. More services mean more content is needed — but not just any content. Each new service needs some kind of brand that will make people want to subscribe. Disney+ has the Disney library. HBO Max acquired “Friends.” And now, Apple TV+, which was struggling a little for relevance, has “Peanuts.”
I’m not arguing that there shouldn’t be any streaming services. That would be pretty hypocritical of someone who subscribes to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, ESPN+, Peacock and CBS All Access. There are a lot of great things about streaming services, including convenience and content. But it does feel like the streamers are starting to take too much away from regular television. I mean, was it fair to NBC that “The West Wing” cast reunited on HBO Max? Or that eventually the “Friends” cast will probably do the same?
It was only a handful of years ago that watercooler shows were ones we all watched at the same time on the same channel. I always felt like that united us together in a giant nationwide virtual living room. And at the risk of sounding incredibly old-fashioned, I really miss that. The reaction to the “Peanuts” change tells me I’m not alone.
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” will be available for free, with no subscription required, Wednesday-Friday, Nov 25-27, at tv.apple.com and on the Apple TV app. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will be available for free Friday-Sunday, Dec. 11-13. “A West Wing Special” is now available without a subscription at hbomax.com.