Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pilot Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Premiered January 13

I debated whether to watch the first installment on Netflix’s newest series since I wasn’t sure whether it was meant for children or for adult audiences. I never saw the 2004 film with Jim Carrey that earned a handful of technical Oscar nominations, and I didn’t have much of a desire to find out what I missed. I learned about this show’s existence when I saw a poster in Times Square biking home on day, and I didn’t think I was going to watch it, but I figured that I should give it a chance given that it wasn’t clear what audience it was intended for and it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot. After doing a bit of quick reading up, I found out that this show comes from creator Barry Sonnenfeld, and his influence was immediately clear from the first frame of this show. The colors, the energy, and the style of the show are all wonderfully reminiscent of the short-lived and unique classic “Pushing Daisies,” and it’s nice to get a reminder of that show. This series has much darker undertones, of course, in its portrayal of three orphans who are psychologically and even physically tormented by Neil Patrick Harris’ horrible Count Olaf. The dialogue is inventive and enticing, and the characters have a certain impossible maturity that is certainly fantastical but also very appealing. Harris is over-the-top, to be sure, but that’s what the role calls for, and I like Joan Cusack as his judicial neighbor and Patrick Warburton as the titular narrator. I don’t think I need to keep watching this show, but it was much better than I expected.

How will it work as a series? The show is based on a book series, and so there is plenty of source material to draw from to fill the plot of each episode. Ending with Olaf slapping Klaus emphasized this show’s tone, reminding viewers that the themes here are actually pretty grim. I think it can work well, but I don’t feel compelled to watch it on a weekly basis.
How long will it last? Well, it appears that it’s already been renewed for a second season and might even end up with a third, so I think its future will actually be pretty bright even if its content won’t be. The reviews are pretty good too, so consider this one a hit.

Pilot grade: B