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A TV review: 'A Series of Unfortunate Events (S1)' is impossible to look away from!

Origin: United States · Language: English
Creators: Barry Sonnenfeld, Mark Hudis (TV)
/ Lemony Snicket (Novels)
Showrunner: Mark Hudis · Genres: Black comedy, drama
Season in review: 1 · Air date: January 13, 2017

Main casts:
Malina Weissman, Louis Haynes,
Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, 
Patrick Warburton, Neil Patrick Harris

More info: IMDb

I was never fan of sequels or a series of films, unless it's warranted. This title is an example where such exemption is applied. I never read any of the novels honestly, but I really LOVE the film version, and I really would like to see a continuation on the fate of the Baudelaire trio of orphans in this order: Violet, Klaus and Sunny and what's next for the fiendish Count Olaf, with Lemony Snicket (the fictitious version of Daniel Handler, the author of its original novel) telling us their predicaments in a flesh. Alas, the sequel was shelved altogether. Thankfully though, the core team found a workaround to somehow breathe a new life into the children's tale; a rather messed up children's tale at that, by turning it into a television series! And it's on Netflix of all places! Oh my!

Enter 2017. The Baudelaires and Count Olaf are back! While the actors are different, most of the key behind the scenes people are more or less the same. The Baudelaire children are now played by Malina Weissman, Louis Heynes, and Presley Smith respectively, Count Olaf is now played Neil Patrick Harris and Lemony Snicket himself is now played by Patrick Warburton. While the same irreverent tone is kept intact, most of the titles' humour and charm, as well as the backstories of the children are more fleshed out in this series, and that totally makes up for the sequel to its film that never happened. Read on through this SPOILER-FREE review to know more.

You know the drill, if you've watched the movie or read the books, the Baudelaire children are inadvertently dragged into experiencing a series of unfortunate events after their parents perished in a terrible fire that turned their enormous mansion into rubles, jumping from one legal guardian to another as per their parents' will under the supervision of their oblivious banker Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman). Somehow, a terrible theatre actor (in every spectrum of the word "terrible") Count Olaf heard of this news, and decided to concoct devious schemes to do whatever it takes to reap the children out of the family fortune they've inherited. Along this journey, their literal misadventures is narrated by Lemony Snicket, a fictionalized counterpart of the novels' author, all while uncovering the vagueness of their parents' secretive lives and what causes their mansion's arson.

Some point of interest here before I go further: the film's version of the titular series of unfortunate events have been tweaked a lot and cramped where need be to accommodate the limited screen time of feature films and because it's a kid's movie (despite this being a very twisted, adult-like take on children's tale) and kids have short attention span. Oh, it was also based on the first three books. In contrast, the TV version takes a considerable amount of time to explain the events and everything else in between by adapting the first four books (two episodes per book); this means that the series included the fourth book from its novels to conclude its two-episodes-per-book format, which explains the 8-episode count of its first season.

While the film itself is quite cartoonishly violent and very fast-paced when it comes to nerfed gruesome deaths/injuries of people that happened to be involved in the children's unfortunate miseries, the TV series expanded its depiction even further while remaining child-friendly, all thanks to the very lenient Internet censorship, and keep things at a slower pace. Even the script was wittier than the film ever was, thanks to Lemony Snicket's constant explanation on certain words or phrases that are deemed too complex for viewers that mostly corresponds to the scene we are currently viewing, the teleplay's soft fourth-wall breaking that reminds us we're watching a damn Netflix show and the awesomely-made theme song that changed some portion of its lyrics depending on the episode that viewers are currently watching. You think it's spoon-feeding? Well, that IS the joke. It's brilliant!

Technical wise? It's like they've been saving the Hollywood budget for the unproduced sequel and throw it all over this bloody TV series. Yes, the cheap-looking CGI from the movies when it needs to be are retained because it plays an important role here. What I'm really impressed with is the attention to detail and gorgeous cinematography that the makers have laid out within each episode that corresponds to its contents. It's hard to tell you guys without spoiling it, so go ahead to Google or just use your wild imagination... or rather just binge-watch this shit!

Now, the performances. I have no objections with most of the regular and recurring cast here (ESPECIALLY little Presley Smith; she's lucky to be growing up with this series, and I hope she's somebody someday!), but I have my skepticism when I saw Malina Weissman's face on its promotional images. The last time I saw her was as young Kara Zor-El / Kara Danvers in Supergirl starring my bae Melissa Benoist as the adult Kara, and she was Super-Awkward as a Kryptonian kid; she was too expressive in delivering her equally expressively cheesy lines. Come this series, she adapted wonderfully to its sombre tone and is one of the decent child actors out there. The other obviously wonderful decision the casting team has ever made? Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf! His character remained over-the-top while retaining the villainous presence who's hell bent on acquiring the fortune of the Baudelaires. This is unlike Jim Carrey's depiction of the same character, where he's basically throwing the script out the window and went totally apeshit with Count Olaf using unnecessary movements and overly-exaggerated mannerisms. What a wonderful irony; NPH, who himself is a theatre practitioner in real-life, plays a wonderful bad theatre actor that is Count Olaf!

However you choose to watch this series, do it! Stay for the dreadful journey of three innocent kids being thrown into horrible accounts of their lives, and laugh at how awful you are calling this an excellently-executed entertainment meant for kids and adults! The makers totally did justice to the absence of the film's sequel by not only delivering a solid narrative, but by also adding an additional book into the mix, effectively making the final two episodes a quasi-sequel to the movie. Thank you for picking this up, Netflix! Here's to hoping that there is a season 2!

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