tv review

The Beagle Remains a Blessing

Unlike sad-boy Charlie Brown or the ever-irked Lucy, Snoopy lives his life the way so many of us wish we could: with unbridled joy and no limits. Photo: Apple TV+

The Snoopy Show understands that Snoopy isn’t a mere cartoon beagle or the pet of famous perpetual failure Charlie Brown. He is a canine stand-in for the power of the imagination.

The new series, which debuts today on Apple TV+ (a platform that, coincidentally, now streams many of the old Peanuts specials and movies), consists of six 22-minute episodes, each one a trio of thematically related shorts that follow Snoopy as he repeatedly envisions himself in more fantastical settings out of sync with the banal ones that actually surround him. More often than not, he’s got Woodstock, his BBFF — that’s Best Bird Friend Forever — by his side.

In some of the most widely watched Peanuts animated classics, Snoopy’s story has been the B-plot — his battle with the Red Baron is secondary to the main action in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and his entrance in a holiday decorating contest acts as sidebar to Charlie Brown’s yuletide angst in A Charlie Brown Christmas. But while Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the rest are certainly featured in The Snoopy Show, Snoopy is indisputably the star, the A to everyone else’s B. That’s not only welcome, but maybe even needed right now. Unlike sad-boy Charlie Brown or the ever-irked Lucy, Snoopy lives his life the way so many of us wish we could: with unbridled joy and no limits.

“I don’t understand you, Snoopy,” Lucy says to him in the first episode of The Snoopy Show. “With all the trouble in the world, you still dance around. Where’s the fear? Where’s the dread?”

Snoopy doesn’t know fear. He doesn’t bother with dread, not even in the early 2020s. While the existential, more melancholy aspects of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts are represented here and there in The Snoopy Show — everyone still pays five cents to get psychological counseling from Lucy, Charlie Brown still can’t fly a kite to save his soul — this Apple TV+ charmer leans more into the Happiness Is a Warm Puppy side of the franchise. It contains moments that are lovely and sweet; at one point, in the origin story of the Snoopy/Woodstock relationship, Snoopy misses Woodstock so much that he forlornly sculpts an image of him out of root beer foam. Many of the shorts celebrate Snoopy’s ability to transport himself outside of reality. While attempting to deliver a forgotten lunch to Charlie Brown’s sister Sally, Snoopy crawls across a massive desert in his mind, which is actually a sandbox on an elementary school playground underneath his furry body. When Snoopy spots a goldfish bowl at a yard sale, he envisions scuba diving in tropical waters with that bowl conveniently acting as an underwater helmet.

The animation is very much in the spirit of the classic Peanuts specials, just as it was in 2015’s The Peanuts Movie. (Craig Schulz, one of Charles M. Schulz’s sons, is among the executive producers, and The Snoopy Show is animated by WildBrain, which owns 41 percent of Peanuts Worldwide.) As voiced by Terry McGurrin, Snoopy still speaks in his uniquely staccato, squacky language, although sometimes he sounds a little bit like a Minion. Overall, though, this is new Peanuts that looks a lot like the old Peanuts, with plenty of nods to the comic strip, the well-known holiday specials (there’s a Halloween episode, and more than one hat tip to the famous Charlie Brown Christmas dance mob), and even more obscure offerings like It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown.

All those references nod to another reason why The Snoopy Show exists, and that’s as a nostalgia play that will help Apple TV+ leverage its other Peanuts content. That’s not just an Apple thing. Every streamer is trying to mine our childhood pop cultural faves for the sake of viewership. HBO Max released the new Looney Tunes Cartoons, creating a potential gateway to the scads of Looney Tunes shorts in the HBO Max catalogue. Peacock gave us an updated Saved by the Bell, a reminder of all the older Saved by the Bell content in its library. Disney+, a platform whose foundations were built on the value of nostalgic IP, brought us the new Muppets Now last year and is resurrecting The Muppet Show in its entirety later this month. Every streamer hopes to seduce us into becoming subscribers by luring us in with the fictional friends we fell in love with as kids.

To make the strategy work, though, these shows shouldn’t feel strategic. They should feel like part of some TV circle of life. The Snoopy Show succeeds in that effort. It’s something parents will enjoy sharing with their kids while also being reminded of their own more innocent times, spent in front of living-room televisions staring at animated Snoopys from their past. It’s a new Peanuts security blanket, wrapped in a comforting and familiar Peanuts security blanket. It’s a reminder that happiness was, and still is, a warm puppy.

*A version of this article appears in the February 15, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

The Beagle Remains a Blessing