Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol might be the most famous Christmas story of all time. It’s been adapted countless times in literature, cinema, and television, yet it never feels stale. The timeless tale of bitter Ebenezer Scrooge getting visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who all help him to realize the error of his ways, and convince him to correct them, can be easily molded to fit any group of characters. It’s why A Christmas Carol has become such a popular format for TV shows to follow for their Christmas-themed episodes. Here are 7 of the most memorable, and sometimes offbeat, A Christmas Carol-inspired TV episodes of all time.
Family Ties, “A Keaton Christmas Carol”
It’s no surprise that cynical Alex P. Keaton would be the Scrooge in the Family Ties Christmas Carol episode. He’s the perfect candidate — obnoxious, jaded, and obsessed with money — so in “A Keaton Christmas Carol” he’s visited by ghosts to change his grumpy mood. There are only two ghosts here (past and future) who take the form of his two sisters but it works incredibly well, resulting in a funny and touching episode — just like every Family Ties episode.
Beavis and Butt-Head, “Huh Huh Humbug”
If Beavis and Butt-Head seem like an unlikely duo to have a fuzzy Christmas special then, well, you’re right. One of the segments Beavis and Butt-head Do Christmas, a collection of Christmas episodes was “Huh Huh Humbug,” a Christmas Carol parody in which Beavis is the manager of Burger World and is visited by three ghosts while trying to watch porn. The ghosts tell him that he wasted his life (basically because he never got laid) but, of course, he doesn’t learn anything. It is Beavis, after all.
Roseanne, “Halloween IV”
In keeping with Roseanne‘s fun spirit and the series always-incredible Halloween episodes, its Christmas Carol inspired episode actually revolves around Halloween. When Roseanne refuses to celebrate Halloween one year, she’s visited by three Ghosts: Halloween Past, Present, and Future who successfully try to change her mind by showing her all the great Halloween costumes and pranks she’s previously pulled off. The subversion works for Roseanne and helps to show why this holiday became so important to her.
Sanford and Son, “Ebeneezer Sanford”
In one of Sanford‘s best episodes, grumpy Fred spends the beginning complaining about the holidays and swindling a young boy who is trying to earn money to buy gifts. He explicitly gets compared to Scrooge (“What the Dickens are you talking about?” he replies). Fred then gets visited by three ghosts — the ghost of Christmas future in a great astronaut suit — who teach him the error of his ways and, predictably, Fred wakes up from his nap as a changed man. It’s the most straightforward adaptation but it works with the series.
Boy Meets World, “A Very Topanga Christmas”
“A Very Topanga Christmas” only loosely follows the conventions of a typical Christmas Carol episode. The episode begins with Topanga and Cory clashing over their different Christmas traditions when Topanga spends the holiday at the Matthews’ house. Cory falls asleep watching A Christmas Carol and dreams of being visited by just one ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Future (obviously played by Mr. Feeny), who shows him what life would be like if he doesn’t end up with Topanga.
Roundhouse, “Happy Holidays”
Roundhouse, the oft-forgotten progressive, subversive, and just plain weird comedy that aired on Nickelodeon in the ’90s, had a Christmas special that loosely revolved around a father’s lack of Christmas spirit. He’s visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Specials (for some reason they include actors Bill Cosby, Vanilla Ice, and Patrick Swayze).
Blackadder, “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol”
In this Christmas Carol parody from the wonderful gem Blackadder, the series completely subverts it by having Rowan Atkinson play Ebenezer Blackadder, the nicest man in England — or, essentially, the polar opposite of Scrooge in the original version. The spirit of Christmas shows Blackadder his past relatives but instead of realizing he’s better than them, Blackadder wants to be like them. He sees a vision of the future of how strong and successful his heirs would be if Blackadder weren’t so nice. When Blackadder wakes the next morning, he becomes the bitter Scrooge that we know from the original story.