“Bah, humbug” doesn’t quite cover it. The BBC’s new adaptation of A Christmas Carol has ditched the traditional Dickensian patter in favour of more anachronistic, coarse language – a move which has proved divisive with its audience.
The three-part series, airing on BBC One, is based on Charles Dickens’ classic Victorian novella about Ebeneezer Scrooge, the Christmas-hating miser who is visited by three spirits one winter night.
The cast includes Guy Pearce (Memento) as Scrooge, Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Stephen Graham (This is England) as Jacob Marley.
After the first episode was broadcast, however, many viewers took to Twitter to comment on the show’s re-vamped lexicon…
A Christmas Carol (BBC1) looked good, but a Dickens adaptation featuring the F-word and a reference to the Epsom Derby? I ask you.
— Philip Champion (@Phil_Champion) December 22, 2019
Looking forward to episode 3 of #AChristmasCarol when Tiny Tim gets to say "God f****ING bless us, everyone"
— Dylan Roberts (@dylan6roberts) December 22, 2019
— lila (@lilahatesizzy) December 22, 2019
A Christmas Carol with swearing and micturation is an interesting update but the BBC should have been really bold and set it in the present day, with Bob on a zero hours contract and his family in fuel poverty #AChristmasCarol
— Rik (@thoughtcat) December 22, 2019
Some people were quick to point out the similarities between Pearce’s Scrooge and Withnail, Richard E. Grant’s foul-mouthed, trenchcoat-wearing misanthrope from the cult 1987 film Withnail and I:
Very Withnail. Was expecting a demand for the finest wines known to humanity #AChristmasCarol
— Penelope Pendragon (@PenPendragon) December 22, 2019
— Faye Hatcher (@fayehatcher) December 22, 2019
A Christmas Carol was written by Steven Knight, the creative voice behind the hit BBC crime series Peaky Blinders – which might account for some of the grittier changes.
Nevertheless, the adaptation remains faithful to the original text in many ways, even including some figures from the novella that are usually omitted from screen adaptations – such as Kayvan Novak’s Ali Baba, who appears to Scrooge when he revisits his book-loving childhood self.
Many who watched the first episode were impressed by what they saw, citing the acting and moody cinematography, and heaped praise on the show on social media…
Really enjoyed the dark and beautifully filmed first episode of #AChristmasCarol starring Guy Pearce, Stephen Graham and Andy Serkis. This new version of the Charles Dickens classic was written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) and includes Tom Hardy as executive producer. pic.twitter.com/kr5htk18Op
— Tony Kinson (@mrkinski) December 22, 2019
Wow, how good is a Christmas Carol. GUY Pearce and Stephen Graham brilliantly cast ????
— Elizabeth of Warwick (@oshaymoishe1) December 22, 2019
Amusing seeing people slag off Guy Pearce saying Scrooge isn't Aussie..Neither is Guy Pearce..He was born in Ely Cambridgeshire..England. #AChristmasCarol
— @llllVetiverllll (@llllVetiverllll) December 22, 2019
A Christmas Carol on BBC was brilliant. Loved the dark tones and a the brief glimpse of Scrooge's past. Guy Pearce and Stephen Graham were brilliant Can't wait for the next 2 episodes. #AChristmasCarol
— Mark Bonner (@markgbonner) December 22, 2019
Do the changes constitute a much-needed update of Dickens’ essentially dark tale, or a sacrilegious butchering of a classic piece of literature? It’s ultimately up to everyone to decide for themselves – although writer Matt Haig might have had the definitive say on the matter:
I don't want to be a literary purist but Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol about muppets and any version without muppets just feels intrinsically wrong to me.
— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) December 22, 2019
A Christmas Carol continues at 9pm tonight (Monday, 23rd December) on BBC One