'Look away. Look away. This show will wreck your evening, your home life and your day. Every single episode is nothing but dismay, so look away.'
It's rare for a TV show to begin by imploring its audience to watch something else, but then again, it's rare for a TV show to be as creative, clever and excellent as this.
Coming this January to Netflix (and fittingly on Friday 13th) are eight episodes of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, adapted by the books' original author (real name Daniel Handler). If the show's scary opening credits succeed in convincing people to go away and watch something else, it'll be their loss.
The Netflix original series stars Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as the eccentric, bombastic and very, definitely, completely evil Count Olaf, who takes possession of the three very clever, very rich and very unfortunate Baudelaire children whose parents have just died in a freak house fire.
Fans of the books will be pleased to hear that the first eight episodes of the season cover the events of the first four novels in the 13-book series: The Bad Begining, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window and The Miserable Mill.
The TV series succeeds everywhere the 2004 film starring Jim Carrey did not. Enter a surreal, dangerous, often pastel coloured world that could easily have been designed by Wes Anderson. Goodies live in bright, candy coloured homes and dress like they live in a 50s ice-cream commercial. Baddies live in dirt and squalor (even when that's also a mansion) and sport yellowing teeth and fingernails, and plenty of hair.
The baddies may look horrible and the goodies may look pretty, but in this topsy-turvy world, human complexities are drawn out and tested. Here, wacky is the norm and nothing is as it seems. Despite its cartoonish, surreal tone, this is one of the most grown-up children's show we've ever seen. A warning to parents: there are moments in which things really do turn out to be as horrible, cruel and sometimes violent as the narrator and the opening credits promise.
The Baudelaire children are pushed to the limits of their morality and everyone is complex and flawed. But that's why the show is so brilliant -- there's nothing patronising or watered down here. It's exactly the same experience as reading Lemony Snicket's marvellous books, and the kids can handle it.
It's going to be one of the biggest shows of 2017. You really don't need children in order to enjoy the show -- the countdown to Friday begins.
|What||A Series of Unfortunate Events, review, Netflix 2017|
|Where||UK Netflix | MAP|
13 Jan 17 – 31 Mar 17, 2:00 AM – 12:00 AM