December 06, 2004 12:00 PM


NBC (Sun., Nov. 28, 9 p.m. ET)

You needn’t be a “Bah, humbug” type to consider bailing out on this uneven musical version of the Dickens classic, adapted from the annual Yuletide stage production at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

In the early scenes, Kelsey Grammer is so intent on hunching, squinting and frowning that his Scrooge belongs in a cartoon. (Not too surprisingly, the press kit says his favorite Scrooge portrayal was by myopic Mr. Magoo in 1962.) Marley’s ghost (Jason Alexander) and a corps of dancing dead guys do a bizarre number that suggests a cross between Fiddler on the Roof and The Addams Family.

The Alan Menken-Lynn Ahrens songs get better, though, and so does Grammer’s performance as he bares the pain and regret beneath the miser’s bluster. Jennifer Love Hewitt sings affectingly as Scrooge’s old girlfriend, and Law & Order’s Jesse L. Martin gives the Ghost of Christmas Present a showman’s flair.

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