Well, to say the least, I’m definitely mixed on A Series of Unfortunate Events. Where I was expecting a dark and dreary tale that would mirror the books, the series had some surprising levity and some interesting performances from a few of the cast. While I can say that I was mildly disappointed by the light tone to the series and the lack of grit, I had to reign in my expectations, and remember that this show is based on a series of children’s books…so, really, how dark could it be?
I do have to commend Neil Patrick Harris’s performance as Count Olaf, ultimately, he made the character feel sinister, but made me chuckle quite a few times as well. Patrick Warburton’s solemn narration as Lemony Snicket also helped to elevate the series quite a bit. While the acting of the Baudelaire orphans themselves was…okay…at best, I really shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not too often that child actors come along and knock it out of the park. Long have been gone the days of McCauley Culkin and Dicaprio.
The show is shot beautifully, the grey overtone helps to emphasize the point that this is a very unfortunate story, and the theme song that encourages you to look away before each episode helps to, again, reinforce that this is a series of very unfortunate events. The star studded cast definitely carries the show, because if they didn’t have the talent they did, I can promise you that this show would not even be remotely good. It took a bit to grow on me, listening to the oddly timed dialogue and the (sometimes) interesting conversations that make up the show itself. However, I think that what initially bugged me about the show later gave it character. Things like flat jokes and a systematic pointing out of the irony helped the series live close to the books.
Now, while I won’t say that this was on par with some of Netflix’s other projects, I will say that this one should titillate fans of the original book series. Familiar places have new life breathed into them, and we see Lucky Smells mill, Count Olaf’s mansion, and many other places through new eyes in Netflix’s series. What the show lacks in real drama, it does make up for in self aware jokes and mild intrigue throughout. However, what absolutely kills it is the two adults that are flying around in planes and being super spies…you’ll have to watch it to really understand. I found those parts blatantly stupid, and if they are truly the parents of the Baudelaires, they’ve essentially killed the suspense of what truly happened to the parents from the get go.
Ultimately, this isn’t going to win any awards. A Series of Unfortunate events is curried to fans and younger audiences, but doesn’t fall entirely flat. It mostly sets out what it attempts to accomplish, although it definitely needs some tweaking. My hope is that the second season will address some of the outstanding concerns, and come back with a much better product for our second offering. If you have a free Saturday afternoon, I suggest a watch, but don’t expect Breaking Bad levels of production here.