Lately, Netflix has given us more original series than there are hours in the day to watch them. Every time you log on, it seems as if there is something new. Some have come as a complete surprise, like The OA, while others fans have been eagerly awaiting since their announcement.
Two years ago, Netflix acquired the rights to the beloved children’s books, A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series follows the Baudelaire orphans and their misfortunes after the deaths of their parents. At every turn they are pursued by the villainous Count Olaf, who is after the massive fortune their parents left behind. Written by Daniel Handler, under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, the books were published from 1999-2006. In 2004, the first three books were adapted into a film starring Jim Carrey.
Now it’s Netflix’s turn to work their magic, turning the book series into a TV show. This time, the dastardly Count Olaf will be played by stage and screen veteran Neil Patrick Harris. But that’s not the only thing that’s changed. To make sure you are ready for this melancholy and miserable binge, here are the 15 Things You Need To Know About Netflix’s Series Of Unfortunate Events.
15. The Show Has Nothing To Do With The Movie
In 2004, Paramount released an adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events which combined (and condensed) the stories from the first three books into one film. It was directed by Brad Silberling and starred Jim Carrey as the dastardly Count Olaf. The Baudelaire orphans were played by Emily Browning as Violet, Liam Aiken as Klaus, and Kara and Shelby Hoffman (as baby Sunny). The feature made $200 million globally, but additional films were never made to incorporate the other ten books in the series.
The film received mixed reviews from fans. Many loved Carrey’s over the top performance as the actor-slash-criminal Olaf. Some praised the gothic visuals. But overall, most fans were disappointed in the way the film rushed through the source material.
However, it doesn’t matter if you liked or even saw the film because Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is not connected to it. The show is a remake; it uses the same books, but it has a different cast and a (mostly) new creative team. Paramount is still involved, although this time it is their television division that is producing the show. No prior knowledge of the film or even the books are needed to watch this new take.
14. There Are 13 Books In The Series, Plus Supplemental Stories
There are 13 books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, starting with The Bad Beginning and ending (fittingly) with The End. Throughout the books the Baudelaires are cared for by various distant relatives all while fighting off Count Olaf ‘s schemes and trying to learn more about their parents’ involvement in a secret society, V.F.D. As the series goes on, the orphans uncover more and more mysteries that connect the organization to both their parents and Count Olaf.
The questions asked by Snicket in the series are never really answered, hence existence of the supplemental books. These add onto the story by giving more background on the characters and locations. The books themselves become a puzzle to solve.
All the Wrong Questions is a four-book prequel series to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It gives more insight into the “author” of the books; Snicket himself. All the Wrong Questions follow Snicket as a teenager working for V.F.D. It is set in the same universe and even has some of the same locations and characters of the original series.
Other reading materials include The Beatrice Letters, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography, The Puzzling Puzzles, and journals called The Blank Book and Notorious Notations. There are still many active online forums of eagle-eyed readers scouring the books (and now trailers) for more information about the elusive V.F.D.
13. The First Season Will Cover Books 1-4
The first season of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will be 8 episodes long. These 8 episodes will cover the events of the first four books in the series from The Bad Beginning up to The Miserable Mill. Each book will have two episodes dedicated to it. Netflix is planning for three seasons overall with 4-5 books covered in each season.
This should ease the concerns of book fans who were unhappy with the previous film. The film tried to fit the stories of three books into a mere hour and 48 minutes. The show will have around 2 hours to cover one story. There is much more time to flesh out the plot and build the world and characters.
And what a world it is. The trailers have some given us a glimpse into the gothic yet quirky world of the Baudelaire orphans. Visually it appears to be somewhere in between Twin Peaks and Pushing Daisies. Having full episodes set in one location means more time to become fully immersed in Snicket’s creation.
12. Transforming Into Count Olaf Took A Lot Of Work
In an interview with TVGuide.com, Neil Patrick-Harris explained that becoming Count Olaf was a process. His transformation into the character required three hours a day of makeup, as well as extensive prosthetics. Harris used this time in the makeup chair to really get into character: “When I’m playing Olaf and so much time is spent on every detail I am able to really acknowledge what a single eyebrow looks like or what a scowl looks like or a grimace. So it’s a much more physical performance than I’ve given in a long time.”
Olaf also uses a number of disguises throughout the series to trick the Baudelaire’s new guardians into leaving them in his care. This means Harris also has to play Stefano, Captain Sham, and Shirley, all on top of his Count Olaf persona. It’s a fun turn for the actor who expressed glee at looking nothing like himself for the role.
Harris already looks deliciously evil as well as darkly funny in the part. Only time will tell if fans react better to his portrayal than they did to Carrey’s over-the-top one.
11. The Actors Playing The Baudelaires Are Unknowns
Both of the actors playing Violet and Klaus Baudelaire are relatively unknown. Malina Weissman plays Violet, the oldest of the Baudelaire children who, throughout the series, uses her inventions to help she and her siblings escape Count Olaf’s evil schemes. Weissman’s first role was as the young April O’Neil in the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. Most recently she has been seen on the CW (formerly CBS) show Supergirl where she played the young Kara Zor-El. Having already played a character who has to deal with the destruction of her home planet and the death of her parents it seems like Weissman is a good choice and will be able to carry the more dramatic moments in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Louis Hynes is playing the middle child, Klaus Baudelaire. His only previous role was as young Alaric on a few episodes of Barbarians Rising so this show will really be his first major role. Klaus is a voracious reader who uses his book smarts to solve the Baudelaire’s problems. Rounding out the cast of orphans is the adorable Presley Smith as the youngest Baudelaire, baby Sunny.
Netflix has taken chances on child actors before, casting the kids from Stranger Things even though most of them only had a few shows worth of experience previously. This could be another chance to find a stand out performance.
10. Some People From The Movie Are Returning
Paramount isn’t the only one involved in both the film and the new Netflix show. Barry Sonnenfeld was the executive producer on the film and reprises his role for Netflix. He is also directing four episodes of the series including the pilot. Sonnenfeld is best known for directing the Men in Black trilogy as well as The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. He has both the combination of humor and macabre that could help make A Series of Unfortunate Events a success.
The other episodes of A Series of Unfortunate Events are directed by Mark Palansky who is known for directing the quirky love story Penelope, and Bo Welch, who is also the production designer for the series.
Another person involved in both the 2004 movie version and the Netflix show is Catherine O’Hara. In the film she played the kindly, if not super sharp, Justice Strauss. Now she will play Dr. Georgina Orwell, a devious optomologist from The Miserable Mill. O’Hara is well-known in both film and television, most notably as the voice of Sally in A Nightmare Before Christmas, Delia Deetz in Beetlejuice, and as the mom in Home Alone.
9. The Author Is Very Involved In The Series
Harris has promised that Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will be a”super faithful” adaptation of the books. That includes direct involvement by Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket himself. Handler wrote each episode alongside Emily Fox (Hindsight). He also wrote the theme song for the show and serves as one of the executive producers.
Harris also teases that Handler will make an appearance in the show like the series’ “own little Alfred Hitchcock.” Having the author of the books actually adapting the material himself for the screen will go a long way in the show remaining faithful to the original material. And while it won’t be perfect, any changes that have been made are coming directly from the writer himself, ensuring no important details get lost in translation.
Handler’s involvement has also helped the show stay faithful to the tone of the books. Harris describes the series as “shockingly dark”, which is good to hear since the film version was more funny than anything else. However, the series will also be appropriate for audiences of all ages to enjoy.
8. Lemony Snicket Is A Character In The Show
While Daniel Handler is working behind the scenes, Lemony Snicket the “author”of A Series of Unfortunate Events will be appearing as a character on screen. Patrick Warburton plays the author who appeared in the very first teaser trailer for the show. His dry humor and delivery are perfect for the way Snicket narrated the books– unlike Jude Law in the film, who played Snicket with a more detached and reserved presence.
Snicket will play a larger role in the show. Harris mentioned that besides narrating, Snicket will also appear in scenes to comment on the action. His character will break the fourth wall to address the audience. This is good to hear since Snicket’s voice is such an essential part of the series and the reason the books stand apart from many others aimed at children.
Warburton seems to be an ideal choice for the role. He is known for his performances in shows and films such as Seinfeld, Family Guy, and The Emperor’s New Groove. With his sardonic and imposing presence, he will be the perfect person to try to shield viewers from the peril that he helped to create.
7. Neil Patrick Harris Will Sing
Neil Patrick Harris is a song and dance man. He’s hosted the Tonys 4 times now, he sang as Barney on How I Met Your Mother, and he’s appeared on Broadway more than once. So it should come as no surprise that Sonnefeld and Netflix have found a way to incorporate his background into A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Harris told The A.V. Club, “There’s some musical numbers. Olaf sings a big random musical number called “The Count,” which is his welcoming song to the kids when they first arrive.” In another interview with Buzzfeed, Harris went into more detail about the song. “(Count Olaf) wrote it himself, and he thinks he’s really, really talented, and it’s a terrible song. So we had to learn intentionally bad choreography” with “almost Lady Gaga-ish kind of movements.” Sounds incredible. Series music supervisor Nick Urata wrote “The Count”, while Handler wrote the theme song.
Musical numbers actually make perfect sense for the character of Count Olaf. If anyone was going to break out into a song, it would be this over-the-top, eccentric guy who thinks the world of himself and his talents.
6. Marketing For The Show Included Secret Websites
Netflix has been having fun in marketing A Series of Unfortunate Events, leaving clues for only the most diehard readers to find. In the first teaser trailer the words, “Very Flammable Dandelions” appeared behind Patrick Warburton. Google those words and you will find a website with concept art of Count Olaf’s house from episodes 1 and 2: “The Bad Beginning”.
In the trailer titled “Meet Count Olaf”, a newspaper headline with the words “Viscerale Fantabulous Debut” takes fans to another site with concept art from episodes 3 and 4, “The Reptile Room.” And fans from the site 667 Dark Avenue noticed the show’s official account tweeted “Vital Fan Disclosure” to promote the release of the first full-length trailer, which leads to more concept art from episodes 5 and 6, “The Wide Window.” There are 49 other V.F.D. related sites (according to reddit), like verbalfridgedialogue.com and verifyingfernaldsdefection.com that redirect users to the show’s Netflix page.
It is great to see Netflix embracing the true nature of the series and creating fun mysteries for viewers to find. It encourages fans to take a closer look at the trailers in hopes of uncovering even more clues.
5. There Is Already A Mysterious Character
Fans have noticed a mysterious blonde woman in both trailers released for A Series of Unfortunate Events and have already started speculating about her role. She’s played by the actress Sara Canning, whose role has been left cryptically blank on the show’s IMDb page. Canning appears in several scenes in the trailers, but so far the most notable one is in the film within the show, called Zombies in the Snow. Uncle Monty takes the Baudelaires to see this film in The Reptile Room. In the trailer, it appears that Zombies in the Snow contains a clue to warn the orphans that they are in danger. The actress in the Zombie film is named Jacquelyn Seleszyk, which could be the name of character Canning is playing.
Speculation is that Canning’s character could be also be Kit Snicket or a gender swapped Jacques Snicket, both siblings of Lemony. The other Snickets are major players in the story as well as in the V.F.D. There is also a possibility that this character could be someone new created just for the show.
Canning appears in the trailer pointing a harpoon gun at Count Olaf so it appears as if this character could be a potential ally for the orphans. Whoever she is, it is fun to see the kind of theories fans can come up with out of less than five minutes of footage.
4. The V.F.D. Is Everywhere
V.F.D. is the secret organization that plays a large part in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The letters stand for “Voluntary Fire Department”. Both the Baudelaire parents and Count Olaf were a part of the organization. At some point a Schism occurred which split the group into two sides. The group is shrouded in mystery and their purpose true remains unclear even to those who have read the entire series.
The symbol of the V.F.D.– an eye with the letters inside of it– appears numerous times in the trailer for the show (as well as in the profile picture for the show’s Twitter page). The insignia also appears throughout Olaf’s home, in the labyrinth map, and on the device Klaus said formerly belonged to his parents.
While the organization is not a large part of the earlier books, it seems they are at least laying the groundwork for it to have a major role later on. Or maybe the show might not wait as long as the books to start uncovering the “volunteers” and “villains” of the V.F.D. and what it all really means.
3. The Trailers Have A Ton Of Easter Eggs
Besides secret societies and secret websites, the trailers for A Series of Unfortunate Events contain a number of secrets of their own. One of the standout scenes of the trailer is shot of a photograph of a group of people standing outside Lucky Smells Lumbermill. Closer examination of the photograph reveals these people are Lemony Snicket, Aunt Josephine, Uncle Monty, and the Baudelaire parents. There are also two people who appear to be Cobie Smulders and Will Arnett. There is speculation that these actors are playing Esme and Jerome Squalor and that they might be seen in season 2. The Squalors take in the Baudelaire orphans in the sixth book in the series, The Ersatz Elevator.
The first teaser trailer was also littered with Easter eggs, from clues about the secret websites to the V.F.D eye. At one point, Warburton walks by a slate for the film, “The Littlest Elf.” The Elf story is one Snicket implores viewers to read and watch instead in both the book and film. The 2004 movie even opened with a short featuring the cheerful, giggling elf. Another scene has a shot of a Lake Lachrymose Taxi, which takes the Baudelaire siblings to their third home in The Wide Window.
2. The Quagmire Triplets Have Already Been Cast
In the fifth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Austere Academy, the Baudelaire orphans befriend the Quagmire triplets. The children develop a connection after learning about their similar lives. It turns out the triplets also lost their parents and brother in a fire under suspicious circumstances.
It appears that even though Isadora and Duncan Quagmire do not appear until the fifth book, the actors playing the characters have already been cast. Avi Lake is playing Isadora while Dylan Kingwell is Duncun. Lake has appeared on Chicago Fire, while Kingwell has made a name for himself playing young Sam Winchester on Supernatural and Victor on The Returned.
According to Lake’s instagram page, it appears as if she and Kingwell have already filmed some scenes together. It is unknown what part they will play or how much they will be seen in the first season. Chances are it could be a little more than a cameo, but it is exciting to see the show moving forward to stories the film never got a chance to tell.
1. Season 2 May Already Be In Pre-Production
With the plan to make 3 seasons of A Series of Unfortunate Events and young actors as the lead characters, it would make sense that filming of season 2 would start as soon as possible. And it seems as if this could be the case. Lisa Brown, wife of Daniel Handler, posted several pictures to her Instagram page of the “writer’s room going on in (her) house.” The pictures show Handler standing in front of (blurred out) white boards in front of a table with people sitting around it.
Brown has also posted one clear picture of The Vile Village, the seventh book in the series on the table. Stacked behind it are books 5, 6, 7, and 9. If season 2 follows the same pattern as season 1, it should cover books 5-8 or 9, depending on how many they want to leave for season 3. All the clues look like they lead to more books being covered in the next season.
Writer Joshua Conkel also posted on his personal website in October (a few weeks after the pictures were posted), saying that he “has been in San Francisco… writing for the second season of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
Most Netflix original series have been picked up for at least a second season so it is a pretty safe bet that A Series of Unfortunate Events will do the same.
A Series of Unfortunate Events will be released on Netflix on Friday, January 13th (of course).