One more version of "A Christmas Carol" and we may all find ourselves inclined to side with Scrooge. There's nothing imaginative about repeating the yarn yet again, even if its setting has been transposed to Concord, N.H., 1933, and the story turned into a vehicle for a restless Henry Winkler.
ABC's "An American Christmas Carol," at 8:30 Sunday night on Channel 7, is just another unnecessary and pointless update. Ebenezer Scrooge's name has been changed to Benedict Slade, and Tiny Tim's to "Mr. T," and so on. The whole thing plays as paralyzingly uninteresting as it sounds.
For Winkler, Fonzie Goes to Concord amounts to an actor's exercise, not a performance that is vivid on any level. His ways of simulating old age are not very ingenious, and in his prosthetic face -- produced by five hours in a makeup chair -- he looks an awful lot like the half-melted fiend played by Vincent Price in "House of Wax."
In Jerome Coopersmith's script, Scrooge/Slade is a Depression-era cheapskate who forecloses on a poor black farmer and repossesses the piano at the local orphanage before a drearily unimpressive roster of guest ghosts limps along to frighten him into reform. As evidence of Slade's fiendishness, Coopersmith has him advocating things like mass production and credit buying, just the kinds of things a Hollywood writer who drives a Mercedes to work would undoubtedly consider henious.
Although the wintry setting of the production has its stark attractiveness, director Eric Till provides not a glimmer of compensating warmth; he is less a director than a pallbearer for this hushed, joyless and moribund adaptation. It's a wonder Dickens doesn't pull a Marley himself and come back to haunt those who tamper with the rich pleasures of his original tale.