When Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol" in 1843, movies and TV were still far off in the distance. So there's no way he could have ever imagined that his tightfisted anti-hero, Ebenezer Scrooge, would someday be portrayed by the likes of Vanessa Williams ... and Mr. Magoo.
It's tempting to wonder if the author would have approved -- or blurted a grouchy "Bah, humbug!"
There, in fact, have been countless filmed incarnations of Dickens' cautionary tale, with the portrayals ranging from the deadly serious (George C. Scott) to the wildly offbeat (Susan Lucci, Tori Spelling) and lighthearted (Mr. Spacely from "The Jetsons").
Here are a few standouts that will pop up again on the small screen this holiday season:
Reginald Owen in "A Christmas Carol" (1938)
Owen wasn't the first Scrooge on film, but he might have been the crankiest. Originally, Lionel Barrymore, who played the role annually on radio, was to lead this glossy MGM production, but he had to pull out because of his arthritis. Owen, a stock player, stepped in and nailed it. (10 p.m. Dec. 19, TCM).
Alastair Sim in "A Christmas Carol" (1951)
A colleague once described Sim as "a sad-faced actor with the voice of a fastidious ghoul." Those qualities clearly served him well, because he's considered by many Dickens fans to be the definitive Scrooge. Sim reprised the role two decades later, lending his voice to an animated version of the tale. (7 p.m. Dec. 19, TCM).
Albert Finney in "Scrooge" (1970)
At 34, Finney may have been a bit too young for the part, but he hams it up through this merry musical, even cutting a rug during Scrooge's future funeral for the big "Thank You Very Much" production number. The energetic effort earned him a Golden Globe award. (5 p.m. Dec. 19, TCM).
Scrooge McDuck in "Mickey's Christmas Carol" (1983)
Talk about obvious, no-brainer casting. So why did Disney animators take so long to put McDuck in the role of his tightwad namesake? (The character first appeared in a 1947 comic book). At least the greedy fowl made up for lost time, ruffling the feathers of everyone around him until finally seeing the light. (6:30 p.m. Dec. 2, ABC Family)
Michael Caine in "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992)
Sure, it's not easy being green, but try being Caine in this film. Not only do you have to fight for screen time with Kermit and Fozzie Bear, you have to play it straight. A tough challenge, indeed, but Caine pulls it off wonderfully, and with feeling. (9 p.m. Dec. 5, ABC Family)
Bill Murray in "Scrooged" (1998)
Murray plays a modern variation of the character -- a cruel, coldblooded television executive whose unswerving attention to his career cost him his true love and alienated him from his family. In other words, a typical Hollywood jerk. (8 p.m. Dec. 3, ABC Family)
Vanessa Williams in "A Diva's Christmas Carol" (2000)
As an insufferable pop singer, Williams gave us a glimpse of the catty attitude she would later hone on "Desperate Housewives." She shines in the role -- and rocks the big hair on a dance song called "Heartquake." Oh, and what a great name: Ebony Scrooge. (3 p.m. Dec. 1, Lifetime).
Kelsey Grammer in "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" (2004)
The "Frasier" star took more of a tongue-in-cheek approach in this NBC TV movie that bombed in the ratings. It might be remembered more for Jane Krakowski's turn as a sexy Ghost of Christmas Past, who -- say what? -- does a little "pole dance" for Scrooge. (Noon Dec. 3, Hallmark Movie Channel).
Jim Carrey in "Disney's A Christmas Carol" (2009)
"Blah-humbug," declared one review of this 3-D animated film, which some critics found to be a case of special-effects style over substance. Still, it was a box-office hit in which Carrey gamely played not only the old cheapskate, but the three yuletide ghosts who terrorized him. (3 p.m. Dec. 1, ABC Family).
(Note: Several of the programs listed here will have multiple airings. Consult your listings for other times and dates).