Guy Pearce features as Ebeneezer Scrooge in this three-part TV adaptation of the classic Dickens novella. We all know the story… Scrooge is a grump who hates Christmas and people and life in general, and he employs Bob Cratchit (Joe Alwyn) who is barely making his meagre wage stretch to keep his family going. He grumbles about giving Cratchit the day off for Christmas and calls everything Christmas ‘humbug’. Then, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley (Stephen Graham) who warns that Scrooge must change his ways. Scrooge is then visited by three ghosts, Christmas Past, Present and Future, who show him visions that make him a nice person who loves Christmas and is generous and kind.
The television show takes a lot of liberties with the story, adding subplots and backstory to give Scrooge reason for being the way he is, giving a much larger role to Bob’s wife, Mary (Vinette Robinson), giving Jacob Marley reason to be as he is. Given I’d never read the novella, I wondered just much had been changed. Time to rectify that: I got an audiobook and listened to it. There are heaps of versions of A Christmas Carol available on Audible, with a wide variety of readers, but in the end, I settled on Sir Patrick Stewart, and I was very happy with this decision. The only thing was that this was 1hr 40 while others were over 3 hours. I’ve been back and can’t see that it was an abridged version, so I can’t really explain it.
The original novella is sparce, telling a good story well, though it does feel that Scrooge very quickly atones and changes. I wonder if just the concept of ghosts was more scary back in the 1840s, or if the creators of the TV show decided that today’s audience needed more. I liked that there was more of Mary and the family in the TV show, though suggesting magical powers seemed a stretch. Several of the reveals of Scrooge’s past seemed to either be giving him and excuse for being an arsehole, or making him more evil rather than just grumpy. All seemed valid within the world created, especially his poor business practices.
For me, I don’t think all of the expanded and reimagined parts of the tale were great choices, but I enjoyed the beauty of the show. I felt the terror of Scrooge (and his attempts to excuse or reason the visions he was having), and I felt that regardless of whether the audience was sympathetic or not, his change of attitude seemed genuine. Overall, I reckon definitely worth a watch.