"A Christmas Carol": BBC/FX's Gratuitously Grimdark Take Demands a "Merry-F***ing-Christmas" – or Else [REVIEW]

Sooner or later, there was always going to be a new television version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the Christmas season. The story hits all the right notes for the BBC: a ghost story at Christmas and a sentimental story about a sad, angry man whose heart is opened.

This new co-production between the BBC and FX sounded ambitious. Tom Hardy, once slated to star in it, has a producer credit. Peaky Blinders creator and showrunner Steven Knight wrote the script, promising a new take on the story. The show stars A-list actors like Guy Pierce. Stephen Graham, Eddie Marsan, Andy Serkis and Jason Flemyng. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer? EVERYTHING.

This is an R-rated, gore-encrusted, F-word-spewing grimfest with the most irredeemably evil Scrooge ever! The original story had Scrooge as a curmudgeonly misanthrope. This version of Scrooge is an outright sociopathic monster! His childhood of hideous abuse turns him into a cold, sadistic bastard whose pursuit of profit actually kills people. He humiliates Mrs. Crachit in the most sadistically horrible way short of assaulting her. He is beyond forgiveness and deserves none.

And they constantly shout the F-word!

a christmas carol

"A Christmas Carol": My WTF?! Watch of 2019

This version is definitely not for kids, but I wonder who it's really for. Do adults really want to watch a gratuitously grim and nasty R-rated version of A Christmas Carol??  The darkness of this series feels much closer to an outright horror movie than a Christmas story. The spirits are all darker, more grotesque and more frightening.

They're actually terrified of being forced to wander for eternity as punishment for their sins. The spirits are unleashed on Scrooge by Mrs. Crachit as a form of retribution. This might unintentionally reframe her, a black woman here, as a victim and kind of witchy mystical Other, which is not a good look.

a christmas carol

The cast is actually excellent. Pierce plays Scrooge as a film-noir antihero. Knight writes dialogue that is adult, sophisticated and layered with existentialism, but I kept wondering, Who is this for?? Are audiences actually desperate for a version of this story that's dark, existential horror?

It's not a heartwarming story of community and redemption. Scrooge doesn't deserve redemption. He actually deserves damnation. The script makes practically every wrongheaded wrongheaded decision it could possibly find . I don't think we were ever supposed to despise Scrooge. Who on Earth wants to see a Nu52 grimdark reboot of A Christmas Carol?

a christmas carol
(C) FX Networks – Photographer: Robert Viglasky

This miniseries is my biggest WTF Of 2019, an utter trainwreck virtually on the same level as Cats. It's a prime example of "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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