In 1999 the first book of a humorous but dark children’s tale was published, beginning “A Series of Unfortunate Events” written by author Daniel Handler, who used “Lemony Snicket” as both pen name and a character in his book series. It became popular with children and adults under the shadow of “Harry Potter”, and eventually got a 2004 film adaptation starring Jim Carrey as the antagonist. Despite good reviews it never got any sequels, and at first the media franchise for the books didn’t materialize. But now Lemony Snicket’s twisted tale has found new life as a brand new Netflix exclusive series which premiered its first two episodes in January 13.

Looking at the show, I’d say the franchise has managed to find new life.

Not for those who like happy endings

Right off the bat the series warns the viewing audience, through “Twilight Zone-esque” narrator Lemony Snicket himself (actually portrayed by Patrick Warburton, as he was by Jude Law in the film) that this is no programming for people who prefer happy endings in stories. And indeed the design of the series itself, from the locations, sets and costumes all evoke this really heavy cloud of depression in everything. Yes they look like something off the movie, but this time the undercurrent of whimsy that connected them to Jim Carrey’s acting as the antagonist Count Olaf (now played by Neil Patrick Harris) has been muted. The result is that Netflix’s “Unfortunate Events” comes across as a bit more of a terrible place for kids.

But that’s the charm of it.

Unfortunate Events” chronicles the misadventures of the orphaned Baudelaire siblings, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and baby Sunny (baby Presley Smith with CGI enhancement). They are sent to live with their Uncle Olaf after their house burns down and their parents with it. Olaf seeks to gain control of the Baudelaire inheritance by any means necessary, and this intensity under a thin veneer of civility is wonderfully portrayed by Harris.

The quirkiness of the books shows in the confounded characterization of the people surrounding the child heroes, all of whom are annoyingly gullible putty in Olaf’s hands while the kids are the only ones who can see his vileness for what it is. And Snicket’s narration is the cherry on top that sells the whole thing.

Unfortunate hiccups

The series is a collaboration between author Handler, director Barry Sonnenfeld and show-runner Mark Hudis.

Despite the promising start, the events of "Unfortunate Events" have a tendency to get repetitive as they were in the books, with Count Olaf hatching one plot after the other to kill the Baudelaire children or coerce them for their fortune. Hopefully the subsequent episodes can inject some variation to the theme. Netflix has been building its rep with their original programming and it's hoped that this series can join the level of attention that "Marvel" Netflix and "House of Cards" have achieved. Otherwise it would be, as Lemony Snicket would say, "unfortunate".

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