"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Book vs. TV Show Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning

Greetings, my readers!

I warn you, that while I am going to tell a sorry tale, you don’t have to be forced into reading it.

Really, ‘Ask any stable person, “Should I watch?” and they will say, “Look away!”’

For any of you who stayed after that dire warning, then welcome! I am here to finally talk about A Series of Unfortunate Events!

This series and I go way back. One day my sister started listening to the first book on audio cassette (yes, I’m that old, in case any of you are wondering) and I was struck by how horrid The Bad Beginning was. I thought it was a sweet relief when it was finally over! But not for my sister.

She wanted more.

From that moment she started listening to all of the audiobooks and laughing with glee through out. My younger sister and I sat back in horror! Why was she finding such terrible things amusing? What could we do to fix it? It turned out that the answer was nothing. So I just kept listening to the books with her, befuddled.

Way back in 2019 I heard that some crazy person had made a TV series out of those books on Netflix. I was determined to stay far away from it.

That is, until I saw some of Skye’s amazing art and suddenly wanted to see what that was about.

Now, to where the story really begins. I told my sister about it and we decided to watch together, though my plan was to scoff at it the whole time.

But something came in the way of my plans. The show was actually funny. It was a blast. And while I felt like a wretched person to get so much joy out of children suffering, here we are. All at once it clicked. I understood why my sister liked it so much. I understood the satire, comedy, and humor. It was so clever! I became an avid fan. Since then I have decided to revisit all of the books and review them along the way. Enjoy this dark and dreary tale!

I will be reviewing the episodes of the show with the corresponding books. Most of the books are broken into two episodes so I will review both at the same time to keep thing consistent.

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. These reviews both for the book and TV show are free of all possible spoilers!

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning - by Lemony Snicket:
Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are the three Baudelaire children who have always had happy lives. All that changes one day when they learn that their parents have perished in a terrible fire. They are sent to live with a relative, Count Olaf, that they have never heard of. It turns out to be for good reason because he is an awful person as well as an awful actor. The children wish they could live with Olaf’s kind neighbor Justice Strauss because she isn’t mean to them, and has a wonderful library. Are things worse than they seem with an evil plot behind everything?
‘They wondered how many other eyes were in Count Olaf’s house, and whether, for the rest of their lives they would always feel as though Count Olaf were watching them even when he wasn’t nearby.’
Genres: Fiction, Middle Grade Fiction.
Characters: 7. I like these characters a lot more now that I know the whole story. There are many bad characters, but the good ones make it worth it.
My favorites:
Lemony Snicket: You might be asking, “Wait, the author is one of your favorite characters?”. Yes, yes he is. He has spent years getting this information to share. His life hints at being a sad one, but this isn’t his story so he doesn’t tell it. There is an air of mystery about him that is intriguing.
Violet Baudelaire: I’ll admit it, one of the many reasons I didn’t like these books was the characters. They were so boring and miserable. Through that all, I always liked Violet because she is so sweet and wants to keep her siblings safe. Her inventing mind is quite impressive!
‘Like most 14 year olds, she was right handed.’
Klaus Baudelaire: I always thought that Klaus was annoying. Like, an annoying version of Lemony Snicket. This time around, though, I could just see how upset he is with their dreadful circumstances, and he has every right to be! Still don’t really like him in the books, but he gets better upon rereads.
Sunny Baudelaire: Sunny is remarkably bright for a baby. There isn’t much to say about her yet, but she is very brave for someone so small.
Mr. Poe: Guys, Tim Curry’s narration of Mr. Poe might be my favorite of all narrations. His coughing and uselessness are infuriatingly hilarious.
Justice Strauss: She is so kind and a bright light for the children who have lost so much. Especially her and Sunny together make me very happy.
Words/Writing style: 10. There are no bad words. This writing style is what makes it or breaks it for so many people. Basically, Lemony Snicket has disregarded every single rule of writing,while constantly correcting things that people usually don’t pay attention to. Here is an example of his rule breaking:
‘The book was long, and difficult to read, and Klaus became more and more tired as the night wore on. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over.’
How many times have I read the same sentence over and over? More than I can count. Here is one where he goes to great lengths to explain things. This is a very helpful one, actually, and I think of it anytime I hear the two words “literally” and “figuratively”:
‘It is very useful, when one is young, to learn the difference between “literally” and “figuratively”. If something happens literally, it actually happens; if something happens figuratively, it feels like it is happening.
‘If you are literally jumping for joy, for instance, it means you are leaping in the air because you are very happy. If you are figuratively jumping for joy, it means you are so happy that you could jump for joy, but are saving you energy for other matters.’
World building/Setting: 7. It’s set in an unnamed town of no importance. It takes it to a new level of including special laws and why they make such an impact on the story. All of it has a feeling of gloom that fits the story quite well.
Quotability: 10. This seems so bizarre that this is my favorite quote of the whole book, but it is. Even in context it isn’t pleasant, but I love it and say it to myself so often:
‘“A stubborn mule,” Count Olaf explained, “does not move in the direction its owner wants it to. In that way it is like you children, who insist on mucking up my plans. Any animal owner will tell you that a stubborn mule will move in the proper direction of there is a carrot in front of it and a stick behind it. It will move towards the carrot because it wants the reward of food and away from the stick because it does not want the punishment of pain.”’
Awards: 3: Silberner Lufti (2000), Book Sense Book of the Year Award Nominee for Children's Literature (2001), & Nene Award (2003).
Content: 7. Count Olaf and his friends are the worst people you can imagine and it shows. He is utterly cruel to the Baudelaires, but it is shown as being wrong. Your heart aches for the poor kids! People are threatened and get mild injuries. People get intoxicated. It has one suggestive line, but it was by an unsavory character and not to be emulated.
Originality: 9. While this isn’t my favorite in the series, I have to admit that it is full of creativity! It is pretty short but every single element matters and is tied it. Impressive!
Good For: I’m stepping away from my usual format to explain something. You might wonder, as I once did, why someone could enjoy this? I have to clarify that we don’t like to see the Baudelaires in trouble. We wish that they could get away from it all! One of the reasons that this story endures is because of the children. They are smart and resourceful. It is good for people who want to be inspired by them and to realize that their lives aren’t so bad in comparison. If Violet, Klaus, and Sunny can endure things, they you can, too.
Age Range: Violet and Klaus are fourteen and twelve, so it is good for people those same ages. It is great for adults, too, but maybe my sister and I are a little too into it. I know a six year old little boy who LOVED this book so much. It spans a huge range! The audiobook might be a little scary for tiny kids, but that depends on the person.
Overall Score: 8.
Worth reading?: While this isn’t the most interesting of the books, it is an important beginning. Yes, it is worth it especially for all of the quotes I listed.
Will I read again?: When I was younger the answer would’ve been a screamed “NO!”, but now I believe that I will. My sister reads these books almost every year, and while I can’t see myself doing it that frequently, I can see it becoming a tradition.
Audiobook: Length: approx. 150 minutes.
Usually I am extremely picky about audiobooks and the narrators, but I highly recommend listening to this one instead of reading it. I used to hate Tim Curry’s voice, but now I can’t picture it without him. Mr. Poe’s cough is so realistic! Plus, with the audiobook you get the awesome music from The Gothic Archies. That was another reason I hated these books so much, but now it is unendingly amusing. My copy of this (old and outdated as it is. Yes, I still have the original cassette) also includes an interview with the author that you don’t want to miss.
Bonus thoughts:
‘“Casing the joint” means observing a particular location in order to formulate a plan. For instance, if you are a bank robber---although I hope you aren’t---you might go to the bank a few days before you planned to rob it. Perhaps wearing a disguise, you would look around the bank and observe security guards, cameras, and other obstacles, so you could plan how to avoid capture or death during your burglary.’
Lemony Snicket is funny in a grim way. If nothing I have said has convinced you so far, continue onward for the review of the TV show.


A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2: The Bad Beginning Parts 1 & 2 (2017):
Based on:
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning - by Lemony Snicket.
Lemony Snicket is here to present a truly tragic tale, and advises that you watch something else. The Baudelaires were three happy children with their two loving parents until a fire claimed their parents lives. Now all they have is each other as they go to live with their closest living relative, a man named Count Olaf who doesn’t seem to be a count in anything, much less the plays he stars in. He and his acting troupe are horrible, making Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, do tedious chores and not providing them with the things they need. Their neighbor Justice Strauss and her library is the only cheery thing. Lemony Snicket warns us that this is only the bad beginning, and much worse is to follow...
“This story will be dreadful, melancholy, and calamitous, a word which here means dreadful and melancholy.”
: Comedy, Drama, Family.
Length: Episode 1: approx. 49 minutes. Episode 2: approx. 63 minutes. Total time: 112 minutes.
Script: 9. A name in vain is used once, but that’s it.
“Let me give you a piece of advice. If you use fancy pantsy words first thing in the morning you’re going to end up a very lonely man.”
(As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I’m Olaf. This encounter between him and Klaus was very much like me and my sister when it comes to words)
Crew: Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld. Produced by: Daniel Handler and Neil Patrick Harris. Written by: Daniel Handler and Joe Tracz.
Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket.
Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire.
Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire.
Presley Smith as Sunny Baudelaire.
Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.
“He’s employed as an actor so you know his excitement is genuine.”
K. Todd Freeman as Arthur Poe.
Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss.
Cleo King as Eleanora Poe.
Usman Ally, Matty Cardarople, John DeSantis, Jacqueline Robbins, & Joyce Robbins as
members of Count Olaf’s acting troupe.
Sara Canning as Jacquelyn.
Luke Camilleri as Gustav.
Costumes: 9. Something that makes for such a fun aesthetic is the clothing. A specific time period is never set (all we know is that they had lived in an enormous mansion in a dirty city), but the clothing (and I’m not expert) hints at the 50s or 60s. The children wear pastel colors that pop on the screen in all the darkness. It’s really fun! It might seem like a weird thing to obsess about, but I take it as I can.
8. There is some CGI that is a little fake looking, but it doesn’t bother me too much because we all know that babies can only do certain things through computer imaging. As I said, the contrast of colors is so fun, and the overall aesthetic pleases me way too much.
Cinematography by: Bernard Couture.
Music: 9. I couldn’t tell you if there is a score in the background (maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it isn’t), but the theme song is so good. I already quoted it earlier so I won’t repeat myself, but the lyrics are so clever! My sister and I love to scream sing it at the top of our lungs. It captures the feeling that you get from this show so well! You can feel it taking inspiration from the Gothic Archies which makes me extremely happy.
Music by: James Newton Howard.
Notes: Though Violet is two years older than Klaus, Louis Hynes is two years older than Malina Weissman. I don’t mind because you can’t tell and they act out the characters perfectly. This episode is absolutely brilliant because there are so many Easter eggs and references! Books 2, 4, 11, & 12 have subtle mentions as well as a few things that will be big later on a carefully slipped in. There is a reference to another of Lemony Snicket’s books, one that isn’t part of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and my sister and I started screaming when it happened because we were looking for it and VERY excited that we had found it. Also, “I told you never to say that word!”
: 10! The writing in this show is top notch, which makes so much sense. A lot of the lines are carried over from the book with little changes, but I also like the ones that they put in.
“All of the artistic and financial aspects of my career are finally coming together like two pieces of a bread in the middle of a sandwich.”
*It is pointed out that bread goes on the outside of a sandwich*
Content: 7. Same as the book. There are horrible people who do evil things. There is one suggestive line about someone knowing too much about a word. People are threatened and get hurt, though less than in the book. Additionally, there is a death.
Originality: 9. They kept the story very true to the book, just adding in fun clues and lines. They branch out a little to show you some flashbacks that help to clarify and are overall great!
“There are countless types of books in the world which makes sense as there are countless types of people in the world.”
Good For:
It’s so hard to say, because with this you either love it or you hate it. Do you like stories where everything that can go wrong does and the characters have to figure a way out? Stories with incredibly witty dialogue? Then this might be for you!
Age Range: I think it’s rated PG, and I would agree with that. As I said, I was a lot older before I understood the purpose of it, so it depends on the person.
'"...When I was your age."
"But we're all different ages."'
(Someone finally said it! My sisters and I get this kind of comment so often!)
Overall Score: 8.5.
Worth watching?:
Yes, of course! This is what catapulted me into my appreciation for the whole series, so yes.
Will I watch again?: This last time my sister and I were searching, vigorously for details, yet I’m sure we missed some that we will have to look for in the future. Also, it makes me laugh a lot, so I won’t be missing out on that.
Bonus thoughts:
Starting with fire, Lemony Snicket is here to illuminate this tale. I have so much to say about these episodes, but I’ve already said so much so I’ll keep it strictly to the characters.
“Klaus Baudelaire was the middle child and only boy. He was a little older than twelve and wore glasses, which made him look intelligent...he was intelligent.”
It is well known that I have never liked Klaus. It didn’t help that my sister was always comparing him to me because we are the middle children. He seemed so whiny and full of himself. Well, Louis Hynes has convinced me otherwise. He portrayal really helps you to understand his frustration when he is so used to researching something when he doesn’t have the answer. You can’t research, “Why has this happened to us?” Violet is more accepting of things, but Klaus knows what is good and what is bad, and doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines. He’s so precious!
I always thought that how Sunny is described in the books was a little ridiculous, so they made her more like a real baby helped make her so special. Oh, and Presley is just the cutest kid ever!
Now for Olaf. He is played so well! He is also the big difference between the books and this show. In the books he is straight up cruel, nasty, and scheming. While he is all of those things here, too, he isn’t as smart as in the books.
“‘N’ for the knowledge cuz I’m very, very, smart.”
I prefer it this way as it gives the whole show some levity, but both have their place. His added quirks don’t take away from the treachery.
Some quick bonus things are that they changed one of Violet’s inventions, but my sister and I agree that what they came up with was awesome. Also, the siblings dynamic is the whole heart of the show. All of them cooking is how my older sister and I cook, too!

Usually I would declare a winner, of whether the book or show episodes are better. I won’t do that here because it is completely up to your own preference! I like the TV show better because it helped me appreciate the books. I will say (and I’m going to say this with every book vs. episode review) if you are looking to experience this story and don’t know where to start, I would encourage the book. The book contains a lot more mystery where the show will, well, show you things that have happened. If you want to guess more, then I say go with the book! But, if you aren’t digging that, then give the show a try.

That is it from me today and the 13th of June! Thank you so much for reading these reviews! Have you seen and/or read these? Which do you prefer? Who are your favorite characters? What are some dark comedies or satire that I should try?



  1. Great review and comparison! I've never actually seen the Series of Unfortunate Events show, but I have read the books. Maybe I should try the show, though. It looks good.

    1. Thank you so much, McKayla! I had a ton of fun writing it so I'm glad it paid off! If you haven't seen the show then you should! It is so much fun and I think you would love the dialogue.

  2. Thanks for the shoutout! I'm so glad you liked the art! I love the show more than the books too. I'm not sure why I like both, it might be the musical numbers or Count Olaf's ridiculousness. I'm just glad your enjoying it. It's one of my favorite series, and I'm so glad we got a show that did it justice. (Presley really is adorable)

    1. Absolutely! Thank you for convincing me to watch it! It has been a great thing for my sister and I to bond over, all thanks to you! The musical numbers are so good! Olaf is so well played and I love that we got to see something a bit different from the books and so overly amazing. So often a movie or show isn't as good as the book, so this is fabulous! (I could squeal about her all day!)

  3. I love both the books and the TV show. It's so well done. Tim Curry's narration is perfect, as is Patrick Warburton's in the show.

    1. I can't imagine anyone else besides Patrick Warburton who could've done so well! I used to only like Tim Curry's narration and not like Lemony Snicket's in the later books, but now I like both.

  4. Series of Unfortunate Events is so good!! I do like the books, but if I had to choose a favourite between the books and the show I'd pick the show. (The movie is good too though.) The last episode of the show killed me. I'm still not over it.

    1. I haven't seen the movie! When my sister first saw the movie she didn't like how different it was, but now she digs that one, too. I think I'm going to try to watch it and have a huge comparison of all of them in the coming months. The last episode! I remember being really disappointed at the end of the books, but the last episode here was spectacular!

  5. I had the same reaction as your sister. :) I found this series to be very entertaining while reading through it. I love Lemony Snicket's writing style. I really enjoyed the show and it was cool to see how everything tied together from the beginning.

    1. You guys were on top of it right away! :) Lemony Snicket's writing style is one of a kind and brilliantly clever through and through. The foreshadowing that the show has is impressive! Watching it this second time with my sister we are noticing so many more things pointing towards the end which we hadn't noticed! High quality here.

  6. Agh these books are so fun! (And hey. I have access to a library now. Maybe I'll finally continue the series!)

    I relate SO HARD to your initial disdain for the series. I used to pick up the first book and just stare at it and JUDGE it. I wouldn't admit to myself how curious I was.

    I'm still a trifle disgusted with myself for falling /so hard/ for Lemony Snicket's reverse psychology, but....Lemony Snicket. I kind of adore him. His writing style is the most hilarious thing ever. I'm sure it's influenced my own writing style quite a bit, heh.

    1. They are a rollicking good time! (Yes! You should! Some of my favorite books are coming up for you, like #5!)

      We are justified in doubting it, right? Why would we read a book called, The Bad Beginning? Then when Lemony Snicket keeps telling us to put down the book I would get so confused, because doesn't an author want you to read his work?

      I am disgusted with myself, too! I had never hidden my dislike for the series, then I watched a few episodes and became a huge fan. My younger sister is disappointed that I flipped so easily. Whenever I see a reference to him in CSO I get very excited. :) He totally has influenced my writing, too!


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"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles