A star rating of 2 out of 5.

Very loosely based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Sky’s new one-off comedy drama Christmas Carole transports the classic story to 21st century London with a wealthy entrepreneur named Carole (Suranne Jones – sporting the most severe bob since Edna Mode’s in The Incredibles) becoming the Scrooge-like character who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.


It’s not the first time that the infamous miser has been turned into a modern day business mogul – Scrooged did it with Bill Murray way back in 1988, and Ryan Reynolds is suitably stingy in this year’s musical Spirited – and it’s not even the first version in which Scrooge has been female, with Susan Lucci (Ebbie), Cicely Tyson (Ms Scrooge) and Vanessa Williams (A Diva’s Christmas Carol) all having had a go at being mean-spirited Scroogettes in TV movies over the years.

In this version, Carole has made her money, and earned the nickname 'Christmas Carole', by selling cheap festive decorations that quickly fall apart. She lives alone in a stunning penthouse with a view of the London Eye (and isn’t best pleased when her brother turns up unannounced with his wife and energetic son), expects her PA to be at her beck and call 24 hours a day, and is planning to sell her company in a deal that will make her millions but leave many of her staff without jobs.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Carole is destined to meet some ghostly apparitions on Christmas Eve to show her the error of her ways and help her get in touch with her inner cuddly person. A shock visit from the ghost of her dead mum kicks things off, and then Carole is in for a night of surprises as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future pop by.

The twist here is that those spooks are the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future entertainment – so Carole is first visited by legendary comedians Morecambe and Wise (as played by Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel, who are well known for playing Eric and Ernie on stage) who take her on a tube ride back to her childhood home and show her that her life with her brother and dad (after her mum left them) isn’t quite how she remembered it.

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The Present entertainer is Jo Brand (playing herself), who zips them both along London’s streets on electric scooters to show Carole how Carole’s family, and her PA’s, are spending Christmas, while the ghost of Future entertainment is Nish Kumar (delivering one of the few funny lines in the script when he describes himself as "a national treasure in the making").

It’s a neat idea that works best in the scenes with Morecambe and Wise, as Carole/Suranne gets to be in a couple of their well-known sketches and, best of all, shows off her previously unseen dancing talents in a superb recreation of Angela Rippon’s iconic high-kicking dance from the duo’s 1976 Christmas special. (Special praise should go to the costume department who have replicated Rippon’s racy outfit beautifully).

Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise the Ghosts of Christmas past & Suranne Jones as Carole Mackay
Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise the Ghosts of Christmas past & Suranne Jones as Carole Mackay Sally Mais/Sky UK

Unfortunately, the rest of Christmas Carole doesn’t quite live up to the Morecambe and Wise sections, in part because those moments with "Eric and Ernie" only highlight how humourless the rest of the script is.

That would be fine – after all, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol wasn’t a laugh-a-minute, it’s only because of adaptations like A Muppet Christmas Carol that we expect Scrooge’s story to be funny – but the trouble is, despite it being a ghost story, Christmas Carole isn’t spooky either.

Aside from one brief CGI moment early on that will traumatise any young kids watching (Carole’s dead mum’s jaw literally drops, and it really isn’t very pleasant), there’s nothing scary enough about Carole’s visitations to deliver a festive fright or even the tiniest of shivers.

And despite Suranne Jones’s enthusiastic performance paired with that haircut and sternly pursed bright red lips, Carole never feels quite mean enough – we wouldn’t be that impressed if our nephew was kicking a football around our luxury apartment, either – so her 11th hour realisation that she should be kinder falls a bit flat.

It’s worth tuning in for Suranne Jones, Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel’s performances (and those dance moves!) but otherwise, sadly, this Christmas Carole is more turkey than triumph.

Christmas Carole airs tonight at 8pm on Sky Max and is also available via NOW – find out more about how to sign up for Sky TV.

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