SOME THOUGHTS ON NETFLIX'S "UNFORTUNATE EVENTS"
I try to only talk about shows and films that I really enjoyed here in the newsletter, to make it more about recommendations than just reviews. But I feel compelled to share a few thoughts about Netflix's new adaptation of the popular book series "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," if only because it's so high profile.
There is a lot of funny writing and wordplay in the show (clearly most of it adapted from the books), and the sets and designs are beautiful. It all looks like it cost a fortune. As well, star/producer Neil Patrick Harris is really giving it his all as the cartoonishly flamboyant, gleefully villainous master of disguise Count Olaf. It's hard to HATE the show, necessarily.
But there's also a real sameness to every beat and every episode. Writer Daniel Handler (who also wrote the books under the nom de plume "Lemony Snicket") is clearly very enamored of the same basic comic set-up, and returns to it repeatedly, in each episode.
The 3 Baudelaire orphans are dazzlingly brilliant and wise, but are surrounded by idiotic, oafish adults who regrettably control their destiny. So each scene finds the kids rolling their eye or looking quizzically at a grown person who is acting ridiculous and making no sense. Count Olaf makes up an insane, obvious lie, dumb adults completely buy it and refuse to listen to reason, the kids are saved through pluck and cleverness at the last moment, rinse, repeat.
We hit this beat over and over and over again, episode after episode. The whole show is just constrained under the weight of having to repeat this formula constantly. There are no surprises, and it's honestly hard to feel any concern for the characters and their well-being, because they rarely get to actually make choices or have real, human reactions.
The show also has a lot of mythology and an overarching mystery about what happened to the Baudelaire parents and what connection they have to Count Olaf, but there aren't really any clues and there's no investigation. The show's too cartoonish to genuinely invest in a mystery, too fixated on the goofy cat-and-mouse games and the silly costumes to spend time worldbuilding.
It's a shame because it's such a lavish production, but I genuinely can't recommend the show.