There’s nothing like a remake of the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to set our festive spirits ablaze over three nights. Once you survived the opening scene of this version by Peaky Blinders creator Stephen Knight – a boy urinating on the headstone of Jacob Marley’s grave and Ebenezer Scrooge bellowing at festive passers-by: “How am I supposed to work with all this f****ing noise?” little else, I suppose, should come as a surprise.
There’s little to beat the bleak, dark miserabilism of the novel’s opening, except the extreme bleakness and chill of this latest adaptation. What bits of Scrooge’s sour soliloquies whispered by Guy Pearce (he of ex-Neighbours) I was able to discern (and hear) were credible and authentic. And is there not in all of us a streak of dark misanthropy?
When Scrooge fumed against the good cheer at Christmas only to be miserable for the other 364 days of the year, many would agree with his attack on our glaring hypocrisy.
But is this an engaging re-telling? For long periods of the first instalment, it was so dark it was difficult to make out where the scene was or what was happening. Movement could be just about discerned on the black screen, but little else. I cheered when I saw the glow from a sputtering candle. As for who was speaking to whom, once again the clear sound seemed to elude this TV drama, even though I have a soundbar almost as long as the rolling credits for this adaptation.
A Christmas Carol may be a reminder of the darker elements within each one of us, but in trying to differentiate itself from so many other remakes of this story, its excesses darkened the original to the point of obscurity. It may improve, of course, by the time we get to the final instalment – who knows, perhaps even two sputtering candles – but viewers may be advised to bring their own.
One TV critic said yesterday the best remake of A Christmas Carol was the one with the Muppets. After this effort, I am minded to agree.