On January 13th, Netflix will bring us a television adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s Series Of Unfortunate Events, so get hyped. The cast is made up of, amongst others, of Neil Patrick Harris and Joan Cusack. None the less, I am somewhat concerned after seeing the trailer below.
I worry a little that the show will be too slapstick-like. Undoubtedly, this is in part because Neil Patrick Harris is tied to the project, but silly little jokes like the villain using an hourglass that runs out too quickly and telling his victims to turn it over is more than a little silly.
Of course, the source material is quite silly also. I may have simply outgrown the Unfortunate franchise, but I think not. I think the dark, sarcastic sense of humor that made the books into a wonderfully hilarious tragedy simply don’t do well on screen. I think this series benefits from the horrendous flexibility of a child’s imagination and tying it down to specific stylistic choices of television reduces its power.
The language games Snicket plays are a large part of the series appeal. There’s a reference to this type of joke in the trailer when Mr Poe says “Perished means killed,” but suddenly, seeing a grown man belittle a trio of children who have newly become orphans is in no way funny; it’s just tragic.
In spite of these half-formed objections, I will be amongst the first to tune in this weekend to devour the show. I also plan to reread all thirteen of the books in the series as soon as I get the chance, so if someone wants to join me in that endeavor and be my reading buddy, they are more than welcome!