As I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of the Christmas Carol story. Why? Because it shows the naïve and twisted view of human nature and society that only a socialist like Dickens could come up with (Honestly, with a cast of hundreds I think the only character he ever wrote that I liked was Sydney Carton…and Dickens killed him).
So here we have a TV version of the Christmas Carol, staring the Fonz as our Scrooge set in early Depression East Coast America. What makes this so much better than the original?
First off it shows that the Scrooge mentality is just bad business, which it is. It shows that the mentality of foreclosing and miserly hoardings is not actually good capitalism but rather shortsighted foolishness. In the first few scenes his version of Bob Cratchit suggests he should invest in a granite quarry to help stimulate the local economy and given FDR’s new programs it won’t go under again like it did a few years ago. Our Scrooge, Ben Slade in this case, fires his employee…for making a good business suggestion. Yeah, this guy is a genius of finance. They also show that Slade’s mentor is partly responsible for driving him to his bad business habits in not encouraging him when he tried to bring innovation and modernization to his mentor…so you can see where he picked up his traits of looking at good business ideas and just dismissing them out of hand.
Its better because it shows him losing his love is what drove him away from people not vice versa which makes a lot more sense when one has an understanding of human nature. Also it shows him as having been an orphan which makes his desire for material security far more understandable (maybe not forgivable, but in the original story Scrooge is from a well off family but not loved, which psychologically makes little sense that he would become a miser being raised in such an environment).
Further Slade is not the preposterous exaggeration that Scrooge was. He does have feeling for others, going as far to give books to the local orphans (this is before the ghosts) to try and encourage them that they can make anything of their own lives (while not toys, it certainly doesn’t indicate the sociopath the original Scrooge was). This Scrooge may be a petty businessman and a short term thinker who is a stickler for rules and immediate payment…but he is not a complete sociopath.
And finally there is the ending. Rather than that bizarre original ending where Scrooge works his way into the Cratchit family (because that makes sense), Slade seeks to truly leave a mark and adopts a child from the orphanage he had once been saved from with the hope of not repeating the same mistakes that were made in his upbringing. Far more hopeful and far more tender.
Only one version of a Christmas Carol to go…