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Fortunate casting of Harris keeps Netflix's 'Unfortunate Events' lighthearted

Netflix released its new retelling of Lemony Snicket’s "A Series of Unfortunate Events" in early January, more than a decade after the publication of the original book series and the 2004 film adaptation starring Jim Carrey.

The trailer surprised many fans, as the series hadn’t been touched in years and was being dusted off with the star power of Neil Patrick Harris and Netflix.

The initial eight episodes follow the narrative of the first four books in the series, with each book being split into two episodes. It tells the story of the three Baudelaire children, who find themselves orphaned when their parents die in a house fire.

They are then unfortunately placed in the care of nefarious Count Olaf (played perfectly and humorously by Harris), a relative whom they have never heard of before.

Count Olaf, plots, with various intricate schemes, to gain access to the enormous fortune left to the young Baudelaires by their parents, while the three clever and resourceful children fight against him.

After his goal is uncovered, Olaf runs away, only to resurface again in disguise, following the children as they move to each new guardian, still trying to get his hands on their inheritance.

The new series has a strange, childlike tone because although the story is set in the actual world, it is portrayed through the eyes of the three orphans. The bank, with filing cabinets literally reaching to the ceiling, does not look like a real bank, but it looks how a child would think of a bank, overflowing with papers.

The house of Count Olaf is so dreary-looking and unsafe that it couldn’t possibly exist in reality. Although most of the characters who don’t work with Count Olaf have good intentions, the adults in the series never listen to the Baudelaires, even when the children have proof, and they are also incompetent beyond belief.

The whole story is told through the eyes of three frightened children who have just gone through a terrible loss, and so it isn’t meant to be seen as real.

The show, although crammed full of misfortune, death and evil characters, remains largely lighthearted due to the performances of Harris and Patrick Warburton (narrator/Lemony Snicket). Both actors have had long careers on comedy programs, and they manage to draw attention away from all the bad things going on and make the audience laugh at a show about a man trying to steal money from young orphans.

Harris’ portrayal of the cruel Count Olaf is filled with sarcasm and wit, and it makes the show much more watchable than a gloomy story about these unfortunate children.

This show is a wonderful way to start off the new year of TV-watching, and is among the top tier of Netflix originals along with "Jessica Jones" and "House of Cards." However, unlike its peers, it can be watched and enjoyed by a younger audience.

The show will be continuing soon with the fifth book, and as there are 13 books in total, we can hope for a good amount of misfortune if the network decides to finish the story.

Jack Dudek is a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute.


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