Unfortunate events roll along




By Brett Shaw

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Avert your eyes from this column, as it will lead you to viewing a hopeless tragedy complete with murder, child abuse, suicide, and being eaten alive. Even though recurring reminders in “A Series of Unfortunate Events” state that only misery awaits the Baudelaire children, the horrendous scenarios still shock viewers and push the boundaries of what is appropriate for children.

“Look away, look away,” urges the opening sequence — but I advise the opposite.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is the current Netflix Original show that has invaded trending now sections across the country. Based on the beloved children’s books of the 2000s, this dramatic comedy strikes at the hearts of both new and old generations. The first season of the Netflix adaptation, released in January, covers the first four books of the series in a span of eight hourlong episodes.

Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), narrates the tale of the Baudelaire orphans, who struggle to avoid destruction and uncover the mysterious circumstances of their parents’ death. Traveling from home to home, their misfortunes are intensified by the cruelty and greed of Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris).

Despite the unwavering wickedness bestowed by adults, the Baudelaires maintain hope and use their creativity, intelligence, and resilience to escape the bleakest of situations. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are the role models that young people need in a world that has become increasingly cruel.

The author of the books, Daniel Handler, was the executive producer and wrote the television series, which ensures a presentation and style similar to the original novels. Therefore, those who are not familiar with the books — such as me — may be slower at gripping some concepts of the show.

First-time viewers must remember that “A Series of Unfortunate Events” originated from a children’s series and therefore must maintain childish qualities. The over-exaggeration of characters and repetitive plot may be difficult to tolerate, as exemplified by Aunt Josephine, one of the Baudelaire’s guardians. Her foolish and melodramatic quirks such as continually correcting grammatical errors or only cooking cold lime soup supply wacky, juvenile humor.

However, the show’s exceedingly dark themes and twisted comedy make for a show that mature audiences can enjoy. Aunt Josephine becomes a much less childish character when viewers realize her habits are symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, brought on by her husband’s death.

With the obviously high production cost of this show displayed by the aesthetic quality and advertising budget, I was initially underwhelmed by the elementary performance of the cast and scriptwriters. Harris falls short of a truly intimidating performance, and his character, like most in the series, leaves no subtlety, verbalizing every emotion and motivation. We get it: He wants the orphans’ fortune.

After investing more time, I realized this lack of formal quality serves an intentional purpose.

The simplicity of dialogue and unconvincing acting characteristic of Disney Channel sitcoms actually contributes to the show’s macabre humor. When the cheery banker first addresses the Baudelaires with the painfully brusque sentence — “Your parents have perished” — you can’t help but let out a guilty chuckle.

Whether you are a child in need of strong role models such as the Baudelaire children or if you are seeking a new source of heartbreak and campy humor, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” may be your newest obsession. Just don’t expect a happy ending.

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