UK TV review: Christmas Carole
Ivan Radford | On 24, Dec 2022
Did you ever hear the one about the nasty person who learnt to be nice at Christmas, after being visited by three ghosts? Christmas Carole, Sky’s festive TV special for 2022, is the latest attempt to find a new spin on Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic. Suranne Jones steps into the shows of Carole Mackay, a businesswoman who has made a fortune selling cheap Christmas tat that’s designed to break and require replacing each year. But will she ever learn to change her ways?
Carole whips through corridors bullying employees before going home to tell off family members. With no affection for Christmas at all and even less concern for the environment, she’s a thoroughly modern Ebenezer for our late-capitalist age. In short, there’s more than a whiff of Scrooged about the whole endeavour. Christmas Carole, though, finds some fresh mileage in the tale by leaning into its British roots rather than becoming too American.
Written by Anil Gupta (The Officer, Goodness Gracious Me) and Richard Pinto (Citizen Khan, Boomers), the script reimagines the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future as figures from the entertainment world. The Present is played by Jo Brand as herself – “I have done some acting…” – wielding a toilet brush as a wand and using an electric scooter to fly through London. The Future, in perhaps the most inspired decision, is played by Nish Kumar – “a national treasure in the making”, destined for future notoriety – whose blunt deadpan is put to effective use.
The most successful moments, though, are when we’re in the presence of the ghosts of Christmas Past, who take the form Morecambe and Wise. Played by Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel with flawless accuracy, they’re a hilarious double-act who manage to tap into the unsettling limbo between nostalgia and surreal horror – while still finding time fora dance sequence.
But while the humour is mostly on the money, the horror’s lacking by quite some distance – something that leaves this festive outing ranking several steps below the pinnacle of modern Scrooge adaptations, the surprisingly spooky Muppet Christmas Carol. Suranne Jones is game for going full Ebenezer throughout, but this is A Christmas Carol lacking in bite. It plays the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order.