If you’re a fan of all things wonder and whimsy, or if you just like watching a demented man try to kill children in different and creative ways, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is the show for you! However, if you’re someone who needs a pleasant story with a happy ending you will perhaps want to do as the opening theme advises and “look away”. If you’re brave enough to watch despite the warning here is a list of 10 things that make the show absolutely brilliant.
1. The Deadpan Narration
In this version of the popular book series, Lemony Snicket himself appears on screen to narrate the many misfortunes of the Baudelaire children. Snicket is played by Patrick Warburton (who you may recognize from “Seinfeld” or as the voice of Joe on “Family Guy”) and is the perfect host to guide us through the lives of the orphans and to tell us of the wider story that their experience progresses into.
2. The Evil Count Olaf (aka the Amazing Neil Patrick Harris)
If you were to take a time machine back to the 80s and tell people the kid from “Doogie Howser M.D” would grow up to be one of the most brilliant actors you’ve ever seen they may have been skeptical, but that’s exactly what’s happened. Harris plays Count Olaf, a greedy man after the Baudelaire fortune who also considers himself a great actor.
He becomes the children’s first guardian by clandestine means, but when that falls through and they are given to one guardian after another he uses varying disguises to trick the other adults into leaving them in his care. This gives Harris an opportunity to show his versatility and he never disappoints. Whether he’s an evil doctor or a malicious ringmaster he’s incredibly fun to watch.
3. The Tenacious Baudelaire Children
The three siblings, Klaus, Violet and Sunny never give up. Klaus uses his intellect and love of reading to outsmart the Count. Violet is a gifted inventor and uses her mechanical ability. Sunny is just a baby but she has teeth like a shark, preferring hard foods like carrots and ice cubes to baby puree. You wouldn’t think this unusual skill would be helpful, but it comes in surprisingly handy getting them out of one jam after another.
4. The String of Count Olaf’s Henchmen
The insidious Count Olaf is followed everywhere he goes by a string of well-meaning but bumbling minions who take his orders with more enthusiasm than they should for a group of unpaid workers. This group of yes men and women are the reason for Olaf’s successes and sometimes his failures.
5. The Never-Ending Parade of Incompetent Adults
It’s not hard for the Baudelaire children to recognize Olaf when he shows up in one of his many disguises. Even the baby can see right through him. However, the adults have a certain blindness when it comes to him, especially Mr. Poe, the banker who is responsible for shuffling the children from place to place each time a new guardian meets an untimely end.
Time and again they tell him of Olaf’s presence and it always takes some convincing to get him to believe the children. This has led to some interesting conspiracy theories on the internet about Mr. Poe being involved with Count Olaf. Is he really that stupid? Some say yes, others say he’s hiding something.
6. The Costumes and Makeup
The quality of makeup is so great on this show that Neil Patrick Harris says his twins, who were in preschool when he began filming, were actually freaked out by the transformations he would go through to become the many versions of Olaf. The costumes perfectly mirror the dark and gothic world the Baudelaire children are trying to survive in and each one is as detailed and unique as the characters who wear them.
7. The Incredible Sets
The universe of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is decidedly gothic. Most of the sets are built in the real world with very little CGI being used to fill in the blanks. The sets were created by Academy Award-nominated, Bo Welch. Actress, Malina Weissman who plays Violet says being on the set is like walking directly into the books. The amazing craftsmanship and hours of worldbuilding by the creative crew behind the scenes shines through making it beautiful to watch.
8. The Musical Numbers
Although Netflix offers a skip option for the opening credits this is one of those rare occasions where you will not want to use it. The opening theme changes frequently and has amusing lyrics about what we can expect to see in the following episode. The episodes themselves have a generous helping of musical numbers too, which are always a treat, especially when they feature Harris who picked up a Tony in 2014 for Best Lead Actor in a Musical (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”).
9. The Dark Humor
In between the whimsy and sometimes technicolor quality of the show is the amount of dark humor. At the beginning of every episode, we are urged to ‘look away’ by the theme song, and again by Snicket who gives his regular warning that nothing good will happen in the show we are about to see, which only makes us want to see it even more. Situations that would take place in horror movies happen in this show but are framed in such a way that we can laugh at them. Like the books, there is humor among the harshness.
10. The Educational Content
If all of the other reasons didn’t convince you to watch perhaps you will want to check this show out for its educational value. If you’re looking to brush up your vocabulary (a word which here means: a body of words known to an individual person) then look no further. Snicket frequently takes a moment to explain what particular words and phrases mean as well as how to use them properly. The books have been a favorite among teachers for many years for just this reason. There are even themed flashcards you can buy as a companion to the series.