About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Christmas in July 2023: Rich Little's Christmas Carol (1978)


Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #25 in the month-long celebration of Christmas entertainment. Each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies that are a creative or imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition will be released soon). 

Continuing with my discussion of parodies, let's look at the hour-long special Rich Little's Christmas Carol which first aired in Canada in 1978 and then aired in the United States on HBO the following year.


This version of A Christmas Carol is a one-man show, starring Rich Little.


Master impressionist Rich Little performs all the roles in this unique version of Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” However, this comedy adaptation is even more special because Little adds another layer of cultural meaning to each of the roles, that is, playing Ebenezer Scrooge with the voice of the cantankerous hard-drinking W.C. Fields. 


The familiar story takes on additional meaning when Ebenezer Scrooge is played by the cantankerous, hateful comedian W.C. Fields.


The cast of characters include Bob Cratchit as the put-upon Paul Lynde; nephew Fred as talk show host Johnny Carson; the charity solicitors are the bumbling Laurel and Hardy; Jacob Marley as the regretful Richard Nixon; the Ghost of Christmas Past is tough-talking Humphrey Bogart; Fezziwig is Groucho Marx; Scrooge’s former co-worker Dick Wilkins is Jimmy Stewart; the Ghost of Christmas Present is the voice of Peter Falk as his rumpled detective Columbo; Mrs. Cratchit as the ditzy Edith Bunker; Tiny Tim is short of stature novelist Truman Capote; the Ghost of Christmas Future is the voice of Peter Sellers as the clumsy Inspector Clouseau; the men on the street overheard discussing Scooge’s death are John Wayne, James Mason, and George Burns; the boy on the street sent to the butcher’s for the turkey is violin playing Jack Benny; and Scrooge’s new employee is the voice of Dean Martin.

I think my favorite character interpretations are Paul Lynde as Bob Cratchit--that makes so much sense! And, Tiny Tim played by the diminutive writer/socialite Truman Capote. Rich Little has put a lot of thought into this comedy and it pays off.


Yes--this 1978 program is easily accessible and released on DVD.

Although the overly familiar story of A Christmas Carol is nothing new at holiday time, this pop culture version of it easily holds your attention as you listen closely to identify which cleverly chosen voice Little adds to his cast of characters. 


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for an upcoming release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com



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