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Surprised by Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

It’s taken our family a while to get around to Netflix’s new series adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and it’s this guy’s fault.

As a child of the 90s, In Living Color was my introduction to sketch comedy, and I loved almost all of it. Almost. Jim Carrey’s Fire Marshall Bill disturbed my soul so deeply that I never fully recovered. I haven’t been able to enjoy him in anything since—not even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

So when I heard of Netflix’s new series, I thought of Carrey’s big screen version of Count Olaf, and I thought “Nawwww, I’m good.”

But if I’ve learned anything as a parent, it’s that kids have a way of wearing you down. And wear me down they did.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the identically named thirteen-book novel series Daniel Handler (writing under the pen name Lemony Snicket). The series chronicles the lives of the Baudelaire children—Violet, Klaus, and their infant sister Sunny, who matches Violet’s inventive genius and Klaus’s logical bookishness with the razor-sharp edge of her incisors.

The story picks up on the day that the Baudelaire’s lives changed forever. While children enjoyed a picnic by the sea, their mansion burned to the ground, ostensibly killing their parents and leaving them orphans in the process.

They end up in the care of Count Olaf, a scheming stage actor with no love for the children, but tremendous love for the money in their inheritance trust.

Count Olaf is played by Neil Patrick Harris—himself!—and y’all, I’ve unlocked the secret of Fire Marshall Bill trauma. NPH plays Olaf with humor, flair, and more than a little excessive drama, and it’s so delightful that I’m pretty sure all Count Olaf circuits in my brain have been rewritten to replace Carrey with Harris.

As fantastic as NPH is, he’s far from the only star performance. Lemony Snicket, the reporter who narrates the entire tale with a certain tongue-in-cheek, what-fourth-wall quality, is played by Patrick Warburton. His dry delivery calms the absurdity of the plotline and allows the story to ride a razor’s edge that had me chuckling and shaking my head often.

The rests of the adults in the cast are no slouches: Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Will Arnett, and Cobie Smulders all have important roles. Even the talent I didn’t recognize shines, and twin sisters Jacqueline and Joyce Robbins made me laugh often at their inept attempts at evildoing.

But the show is carried, truly, on two much younger backs. Malina Weissman’s Violet and Louis Hyne’s Klaus are perfect. They manage to be at once children, wise observers of the world, child detectives, and victims of this series of unfortunate events. I’ve no doubt that both young actors will be on our screens, big and small, for years to come.

If you haven’t started watching Netflix’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, pop some popcorn, snuggle up on the couch with your family, and get to binging. You won’t regret it.

Watch Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix