Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)
If you look at the season as something made to appeal universally, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you look at this as a children’s series, one more so aimed at tweens or children, you learn to accept the show’s quality and style.
The Baudelaire children go through various guardians, each with some almost niche type of specialty. One deals with reptiles, the other grammar, and both are played in an almost exaggerated Sesame Street type manner. Yet, despite the adults being touted as intelligent, it seems common sense isn’t common. Hence how Count Olaf, the master of disguise, infiltrates each home and whatever environment the orphans find themselves and like a villain on Scooby Doo, almost gets what he wants up until the kids make a last minute foil.
Though, the story isn’t just about the children hoping from one guardian to the next and beating Count Olaf. It also deals with trying to figure out who their parents are, what is this secret organization dealing with an eye, and how are all these people they never met connected? A mystery not really searched for until nearly the end of the season.
It Will Make You Giggle At Times
Sometime around “The Wide Window,” I came to accept that this show isn’t like most Netflix shows. It isn’t made for adults but is more so made for children. For while the books began in the 90s and ended in 2006, making them nearly 20 years old, as noted in The Hollywood Reporter’s TV Exec roundtable, it is all about branding. So with Netflix mostly being known for adult properties dealing with corrupt politicians, various types of minorities in prisons, and now Marvel TV shows, it makes penetrating the children’s entertainment market important. After all, they are trying to become a one-stop shop for everyone. As diverse as network TV is, but without the various limitations which are causing a decline in their viewership.
So, if you see this show as something meant to break into a younger demographic, you can learn to enjoy it and maybe laugh at the silliness. For truly, between Neil Patrick Harris and some of the children’s guardians, if you let your expectations go because you saw Jim Carrey’s version, because you read the books, or because this is on Netflix, you could actually enjoy yourself.
This Is Definitely A Faithful Adaptation
Noting I only got as far as The Wide Window, in the book series, before I tapped out, being that I started reading them just last year, much less I still have the books close by, collecting dust, I found that so much of this series is either word for word or else done with very little creative liberties. Which almost makes you hope between Netflix and many others, maybe future book adaptations could be handled this way.
The Majority of the Adults Are Idiots
One of the first signs that this was made for kids is because, similar to The Boxtrolls, all the adults are idiots. The type of idiots that you’d often see on the Disney Channel or some Nickelodeon shows. Which, while funny or silly when you are young, once you become an adult it’s mind boggling. Almost to the point, you have to fully believe the reason any of these adults have made it through life was purely luck if not financial support which allowed them to be as curious and stupid as the DoDo bird.
The Children Cast Aren’t Ready To Be Leads Yet
With the majority of the adults being idiots, and the actors themselves exaggerating this to epic proportions, it makes it so the weight of the show being likable is on the children. After all, Neil Patrick Harris is playing a character you are supposed to love to hate, so the children should be the ones you simply love. However, as an adult, I find both of the children to be dull, have less charisma than I’d expect from the kids who are on Barney and are overly reliant on NPH. For while Violet is an inventor and we see her do some almost MacGyver type things, she does it with almost no emotion or charisma. It’s like the actress knows facially she is supposed to emote, but with her having to remember lines and not wanting to become a liability to the production, the rest of her body is just still and in shock of her circumstance.
As for Klaus, even with him getting into a lot of trouble toward the end of season 1, and becoming a puppet for Count Olaf and a Dr. Orwell (Catherine O’Hara), he is a largely forgettable character. For despite watching every episode since sometime this morning, and taking breaks because I’d go nuts otherwise, I am left trying to remember what Klaus really did that was noteworthy. Sunny, thanks to subtitles, is made comedic, Count Olaf’s focus is primarily on Violet, so her character benefits from screentime with Neil Patrick Harris, and that leaves poor Klaus given the short end of the stick. For with him relying on Violet, who is the focal point when it comes to the children, you get to see a serious case of middle child syndrome.
The Constant Pursuit of a Running Gag or Jokes
Repeating the same thing over and over again, then suddenly changing the line on the last time, was something it seems the show wanted to make a running gag. However, to me, it never worked. Mr. Poe repeating himself 7 times about who knows what wasn’t funny. If anything, it made it seem like Netflix ordered 40-minute episodes so when then needed just a few more minutes, that gag was used.
Though, in general, it often feels like the show is trying too hard to be funny. Which you kind of find to be a shame since there is all this talent on this show, actors who have done much better work. So for them to not be able to work a line to be funny or at least get a chuckle out of you reminds you how important a script can be. For while Neil Patrick Harris seems to work around things, possibly using that producer credit to make sure he ultimately benefits from this show, the rest of the actors, like Alfre Woodard, lead you to question if they were hypnotized into signing on this project much less hypnotized during their performance.
On The Fence
Mother, Father and The Secret Organization
Though something often just addressed in the final minutes of each episode, I found the mother, father, and secret organization sub-plot interesting. Perhaps because, in the books, that might be something addressed later on and because in the Jim Carrey movie it was absent. So, with that said, it made the topic new to me and with the mother and father character having the same eccentric manner like everyone else, but not seeming stupid, they were the breath of fresh air before I started another episode which was as rancid as the area around Uncle Monty’s home.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
If you look at this in the same mindset as Stranger Things, in terms of the focus being on tweens and teens in an unfortunate situation, you’ll be appalled by how bad this show seems. However, if you lower your expectations drastically, see this as a show starring kids, for kids, you can learn to enjoy it. You won’t be made so intrigued to borrow or buy the books, nor excited about season 2, but if you have absolutely nothing else to do, it will fill around 8 hours of your time with mindless content.