Movies · TV

Lemony Snicket’s Unlikely Journey

By  · Published on January 16th, 2017

Unfortunate events led to the series transition from book to screen and to screen again.

The saying life imitates art could not be more appropriate for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Similar to the sad story of the Baudelaire orphans, the franchise was shifted around to different families before finally a home on Netflix. Each of the thirteen novels in series will be represented by two-episode arcs, in likely the best fit for the material. The following is the story of how the Baudelaire orphans have made the journey across many different mediums. Don’t look away otherwise you may miss the spectacular finale.

A Series of Unfortunate Events started out as a series of thirteen novels written by Lemony Snicket (pen name of American author Daniel Handler), about the Baudelaire orphans. Three amazing intelligent and resourceful children – Violet, the oldest who has amazing mechanical skills creating almost anything at will; Klaus, the middle child fascinated by novels with a stunning intellect for his age; and Sunny, a toddler with the ability to use her teeth to create shapes and items from the hardest materials. This wouldn’t be an unfortunate story without some kind of raw deal for the young protagonists. Their home was destroyed in a fire, the same fire that their parents perished in. Now they are to live with the wickedly evil Count Olaf whose only interest is the Baudelaire fortune.

There is one more very important character and that is Lemony Snicket himself. “If you were interested in stories with happy endings, then you would be better off somewhere else.” Spoken by Snicket in episode one, The Bad Beginning, he quickly and repeatedly tells the audience that their attentions would be better suited elsewhere. Even the opening theme song repeats the phrase “look away”. Snicket himself is ever-present bringing the audience with him as he explains concepts inherent in the story or foreshadows some wicked deed.

Given the novels success, a film adaptation covering the first three Lemony Snicket novels was released. It featured Jim Carrey in the titular role as Count Olaf and rounded out the cast with Jude Law, Emily Browning, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, and Meryl Streep. When it was released it was moderately successful and there were always rumblings of a sequel. Of course, this wouldn’t be a story of unfortunate events if this story had a happy ending right out of the gate.

Lemony Snicket Urges You to Stay Away From A Series of Unfortunate Events

Soon after the release of the first motion picture, producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald were asked about moving forward with a sequel. At the time, they cited that “Lemony Snicket’s is still something Paramount is interested in pursuing and we’re going to be talking with them more.” A shake up at Paramount led to the tabling of more Snicket movies and by the time they had thought up a concept, the children had aged out of their roles. Five years later, director Brad Silbering had an extreme idea for the future of the franchise (I checked to make sure this wasn’t an April Fools joke). When talking to MTV News, he envisioned the sequel to use stop-motion animation. This way they could replicate the original actors, save on production costs, and pave the way for multiple sequels. Each new sequel would be developed in a different medium. Obviously, that plan never really took shape.

Thirteen years after the release of the film, the thirteen novel series with thirteen chapters in each novel, had a brand new television show released on Netflix on January, 13th, 2017. There is certainly a pattern here. Featuring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, Lemony Snicket has finally found a home where its entire sad story can be told. The plan is to quickly film the three seasons that will be comprised of 26 total episodes, giving each story the budget and time required. This will also be done so that the young actors; Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, and Presley Smith don’t age out of their roles.

So how does the series fare on Netflix? Wonderfully. The young actors are a delight and Neil Patrick Harris showcases his talent as the villainous Count Olaf. It must be a constant challenge and delight playing the various performances that come with the part. Each new two-episode story has Count Olaf assume a new role. His occupation as a very bad actor, has given him enough experience to consistently fool the adults around him, although the children are quick to see through his guise. There has also been immense care given to the design of the world. Each new location that the children visit, feels vastly different than the last, each with its own unique charm. Often times it can seem as if the worlds of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton have messed together to create something wholly unique.

The only problem is that each story tends to become repetitive, which was also an argument of many early Lemony Snicket novels, so perhaps it will outgrow the current formula. The only reason that doesn’t fare all that well for its stay on Netflix is that binge watching becomes tedious. This show is much more digestible enjoying each of the two-part stories as a single movie.

Back when Lemony Snicket came out into theaters, it was unimaginable that a show with this macabre sense of humor would ever make it on television. When author Daniel Handler was approaching television stations for a production of his novels in the early 2000’s they would always ask “…Does their house have to burn down? Do they have to be orphans?” Obviously their house had to burn down. Thankfully the landscape has changed considerably since then. Handler continues, “Pretty basic questions, just because the thought of TV then was so sunny. It’s been nice not to have those conversations.” Finally the perfect opportunity has finally arrived. “In all honesty, I perform long-form television to the movies. It’s so much more convenient to consume entertainment from the comfort of your own home.”, a line Count Olaf says directly into the camera. Confirmation that the best home for Lemony Snicket is Netflix.

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