Netflix’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ is a lucky find

This time, Count Olaf isn’t messing around.

Four stars

A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 1 available January 13 on Netflix.

Netflix’s original programming juggernaut is proving nigh unstoppable. In only a few short years, the streaming network has assumed ownership of television drama (Orange Is the New Black) situation comedy (Lady Dynamite) and cult-favorite genre fiction (Stranger Things). Now, with a delightful adaptation of Daniel Handler’s kid-gothic book series A Series of Unfortunate Events, Netflix has taken to righting the wrongs of Hollywood’s recent past.

Unfortunate Events was first produced 13 years ago as a Jim Carrey comedy. Unlike the new series, which is written for television by Handler and produced by Handler and Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld, the Carrey film was entirely forgettable—little more than a vehicle for the actor’s tiresome, rubber-faced mugging. The Netflix show is smartly scripted, boasts some feature film-worthy production design and has a terrific ensemble cast that includes Patrick Warburton as kindly narrator Lemony Snicket and Neil Patrick Harris in prime scenery-chewing form as the villainous Count Olaf.

I stop here for fear of spoilers. To reveal even a tiny bit of the tragedy of the Baudelaire orphans would ruin the surprises Handler and Sonnenfeld have carefully laid out. Watch for yourself, and expect only what Netflix delivers regularly: one fortunate discovery after another.

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