Like many kids in our generation, I avidly read Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I enjoyed that they didn’t have a happy ending and that it involved a decent amount of thinking for a children’s series.
On top of reading all of the books, I watched the movie adaptation of the first three books what seems like hundreds of times.
When I heard that Netflix was going to produce a television adaptation of the series, I was beyond thrilled. I enjoy most Netflix Originals and I thought that this show wouldn’t be any different. Additionally, the show would supposedly cover more of the story than the movie by covering the events of Book Four.
However, despite initial rave reviews from people who are paid to think deep thoughts about TV, the show fell completely short of my expectations.
My first problem is with the casting. While everyone looks the part as described in the books, the actors don’t quite fit in with the characters. In fact, some of the characters felt downright miscast.
While Neil Patrick Harris is a wonderful actor, he just doesn’t have the manic qualities needed to play someone as horrific as Count Olaf. A lot of the time, the character felt very forced, especially when compared to Jim Carrey’s interpretation of the character in the cinematic adaptation.
Furthermore, Patrick Warburton, who you may know as Kronk from “The Emperor’s New Groove,” plays Lemony Snicket, the man who drives the entire story. However, his delivery completely changed the tone of the show which didn’t match up with the mood of the book series.
While I did enjoy his occasional sarcastic jokes, overall his voice just came across as grating and uncaring. When he begins the show by warning the audience that it will not have a happy ending, he seems more annoyed than sympathetic to the plights of the children.
My biggest grievance with the show, however, wasn’t the casting choice. It was the choice to include more than what the books included.
One of the things I was most excited about with a TV adaptation of the series was that it was going to be able to include everything from the books. While the series does a great job including much of the book’s canon, it includes some information that isn’t found in the story, or at least not in the order in which the books present the information,
However, much like in the story of the Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, there are some bright spots in this Netflix production.
One aspect that the show did well was to include more people of color in the cast. The show allows a greater representation of people, creating a much richer cast without falling into the trap of tokenism.
Many of the secondary characters flourish in the series. Aasif Mandvi does a fantastic job as Montgomery Montgomery, the children’s herpetologist “uncle.” He portrays a genuine warmth that really makes you wish the story could end with the Baudelaire children living with him forever.
Also, despite having to fill the shoes of Meryl Streep, Alfre Woodard portrays Aunt Josephine with a hilarious nervousness. Again, she portrays a genuine warmth that makes the viewer wish everything could work out for the Baudelaires.
Another great aspect of the show is the visual effects and set pieces. Other than the special effects done on Sunny Baudelaire, the designers of the show do a wonderful job of creating a surreal world. The end product is a setting that has an atmosphere lacking reality and time.
Overall, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” fell completely short of expectations. What I had hoped would be a truly accurate portrayal of the books I loved ended up being an almost unrecognizable story. The show lacked most of the authenticity that made the books so memorable, but perhaps that was the point.
Only time will tell what Netflix plans to do with the rest of the series. However, despite the many flaws of the first eight episodes, I know I’ll be logging on to watch the rest.