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This week’s TV: Why Scrooge is timeless, a ‘Willow’ series, and a Dolly Parton movie

Ryan Reynolds (left) and Will Ferrell in "Spirited," one of the many stories inspired by "A Christmas Carol."Apple TV+

Your TV GPS, Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s look at the week ahead in television, appears every Monday morning on BostonGlobe.com. Today’s column covers Nov. 28-Dec. 4.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” was first published in December of 1843. Since then, it has been made into approximately 20 live-action movies, 10 animated movies, and 30 TV movies. And then there have been many operas, theatrical productions, and graphic novels.

Dickens’s tale has proven timeless, as it works with universal themes revolving around wealth, poverty, charity, and happiness. It gives us a self-interested rich person to hate and the working poor — and their helpless children — to sympathize with. That was relevant back in the 19th century, and it’s certainly still relevant now. The same subjects appear in most of Dickens’s fiction, but in “A Christmas Carol” they’re delivered with great concision, and with an entertaining supernatural element, the ghosts.

It’s ironic, to some extent, that we embrace this particular moral — about the value of compassion and generosity over materialism — at the most commercial time of the year. Perhaps we like having a reminder of what really matters in life as we throw down our credit cards and wrap our over-priced gifts.


Dickens’s story also gives us a portrait of the transformation of a man — a stubborn man who, at first, seems highly unlikely to change. His swing from cruel to kind offers a message of hope, that it’s never too late to choose a better, more humane way to live.

Earlier this month, the “Christmas Carol” adaptation “Spirited” starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds premiered; it’s now on Apple TV+. This week, another adaptation comes our way, this time an animated musical from Netflix called “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol.” It uses some of the songs from the 1970 Albert Finney version, called “Scrooge,” and the impressive voice cast includes Olivia Colman as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Luke Evans as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jonathan Pryce as Jacob Marley.


According to director Stephen Donnelly, “There are more than enough psychedelic, time-traveling and musical surprises to keep those familiar with the story on the edge of their seats.” The Netflix movie — here’s the trailer ― premieres on Friday.


1. What’s this, a Disney+ show that has nothing to do with “Star Wars” or Marvel? Still, it’s a reboot, lest you think the streamer is suddenly looking beyond its own IP, and it’s an odd one at that. “Willow” is a series adaptation of the 1988 Ron Howard movie, which was about Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) and his quest to protect a baby from an evil queen. Davis returns as Willow, and he sets out on a different quest this time. (Here’s the trailer.) Fantasy adventure, this is your TV moment. Amer Chadha-Patel and Ellie Bamber costar.

2. The great, stupendous, lovely, sane, earnest, funny, generous Dolly Parton is here for the holidays with “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas.” She stars as herself in this meta movie, rushing around trying to put together a holiday special. In the process, she reflects on her past and gets back in touch with what really matters in life. (Here’s Dolly Herself describing the movie.) Tom Everett Scott and Ana Gasteyer costar, and Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus, and Jimmy Fallon are the musical guest stars. It premieres on Thursday at 8 p.m. on NBC.


Michael Shannon as George Jones and Jessica Chastain as Tammy Wynette in "George & Tammy."Dana Hawley/Showtime

3. In “George & Tammy,” a six-episode miniseries, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain play country music legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette (here they are in the trailer). The biographical story also features Steve Zahn, Walton Goggins, and Kelly McCormack, and it’s based on the 2011 memoir by George and Tammy’s daughter, Georgette Jones. It premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

4. “Love Actually” came out in 2003; Diane Sawyer is hosting ABC’s “The Laughter & Secrets of ‘Love Actually’: 20 Years Later” on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The one-hour special (trailer) features interviews with the stars from the film, including Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Bill Nighy, as well as writer and director Richard Curtis.

From left: Adeyinka Akinrinade, Ola Orebiyi, and Nneka Okoye in Amazon's "Riches."David Hindley/Prime Video

5. A self-made businessman who owns a cosmetics empire has a stroke, and the family fight for control over his empire begins. “Riches” sounds “Succession”-esque, as the children from his two marriages begin to collide (trailer). The six-episode British drama, which premieres Friday on Amazon, was created by Abby Ajayi of “How to Get Away With Murder” and “The First Lady.” Stars include Hugh Quarshie, Brendan Coyle, and Sarah Niles (from “Ted Lasso”).

6. “Irreverent” is a light 10-episode Australian drama about a Chicago criminal (Colin Donnell) who botches a mob heist and goes on the run. He winds up in small-town Australia, posing as the local church’s reverend. He starts to like playing the role, but those Chicago gangsters are still tracking him down. It premieres on Wednesday on Peacock.



“Slow Horses” Season two of Gary Oldman’s MI5 drama. Apple TV+, Friday

“Three Pines” An adaptation of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series starring Alfred Molina. Amazon, Friday

“Christmas in Rockefeller Center” With performances from Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, and the Radio City Rockettes. NBC, Wednesday, 8 p.m.

“Planet Sex With Cara Delvigne” A docuseries on human sexuality. Hulu, Tuesday


“The Sex Lives of College Girls” Season two coasts on the characters’ appeal. HBO Max

“Fleishman Is in Trouble” A strong adaptation by Taffy Brodesser-Akner of her novel. Hulu

“The Crown” A compelling new season with a new cast. Netflix

“The White Lotus” An entertaining new season of Mike White’s satire. HBO

“Magpie Murders” A clever whodunit inside a whodunit from PBS’s “Masterpiece,” starring Lesley Manville. GBH 2

“Interview With the Vampire” Anne Rice’s complex, sensual creatures survive the transition to TV. AMC, AMC+

“Reboot” An affectionate satire of Hollywood that’s also a workplace comedy. Hulu

“The U.S. and the Holocaust” A powerful three-part documentary from Ken Burns and his team. GBH 2

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.