ByKristy Anderson, writer at
Kristy Anderson

(Warning: Contains spoilers for the books, movie, and TV Series of A Series Of Unfortunate Events)

Netflix's A Series Of Unfortunate Events, based on the novels of the same name, has earned rave reviews from critics and casual viewers alike. Some viewers may remember that this is not the first time the series has been adapted. A film, starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf (played by in the Netflix series) was released in 2004. While the film received mostly positive reviews, fans of the books were disappointed. With the events of the first three novels crammed into a single film, a lot of material was left out.

Thus far, the series has been much better received by fans, and this is really no surprise. There are a number of reasons why has worked out better as a series than it did as a movie.

The Supporting Characters Receive More Screen Time And Development

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount TV]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount TV]

In the series, the supporting characters in the story receive much more screen time and deeper characterization. So far, the best example of why this is an improvement over the film comes in the adaptation of Book One — The Bad Beginning.

In the book, Justice Strauss is a major supporting character, with the Baudelaires often visiting her library. This does not come across at all in the film, where the character (played by Catherine O'Hara) only appears at the beginning and towards the very end, coming across as just another in a long line of adults who do not listen to the children, therefore pushing them deeper into trouble.

'Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount]
'Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount]

The series, in which Justice Strauss is portrayed by Joan Cusack, is a much more faithful adaptation of the novels. Strauss immediately stands out as one of the most sympathetic adult characters in the whole series, acting as a true support to the children that they rarely find later on.

Unlike the book, however, we receive one extra snippet of Justice Strauss at the end of Episode 2, cracking open a book on Secret Organizations. This scene is likely intended to foreshadow the character's appearance in the second to last story, The Penultimate Peril.

The Series' Overarching Mystery Plot Is Portrayed Much More Easily In Episodic Format

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount TV]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount TV]

Those who have read the novels will remember that, eventually, a plot comes into play regarding the mysterious "V.F.D.," linking to the true fate of the Baudelaire parents. Only the very subtlest hint to the coming mystery is seen in the film — in Olaf's tattoo, the spyglass Klaus finds in the ruins, and that Uncle Monty has a similar spyglass. This is somewhat understandable, as the mystery does not truly kick into gear until the end of book five, The Austere Academy, and the film only covers Books One through Book Three

The series, however, jumps straight into dropping clues. Lemony Snicket even reveals what V.F.D. is in Episode 1, though non-book readers wouldn't have caught the significance. The early introduction of ASOUE's mystery not only sets the version apart as the superior adaptation of the novels, it is also a good move from a TV series standpoint. The mystery angle will help draw in viewers, even more so as the series is an adaptation of a completed series of novels. This means that in the likely event the show continues beyond its first season, things will almost definitely be resolved at some point, unlike the film, which teased more, but sadly never delivered.

In Its Current Format, The Series Will Most Likely Reach Its Conclusion Before The Stars Have To Be Replaced.

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount TV]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Paramount TV]

Though a second season of the show has not been officially confirmed, series writer Daniel Handler revealed that he is currently working on a 10-episode season, which will adapt Books Six through Nine. A final, eight-episode season would then adapt the remaining four novels.

One of the major issues that kept the film series from continuing was that the actors cast as the Baudelaire orphans outgrew their roles long before the filmmakers were ready to continue. Assuming Season 2 enters production relatively soon (and Season 3 is commissioned), the series will likely be complete in about two years' time. This is actually close to the amount of time that has passed by the conclusion of the novels, making it unlikely that the current crop of child actors — Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, and Presley Smith — will need to be replaced before the series ends. Continuity wise, this is a definite advantage the series will hold over any attempted sequel to the film.


Which adaptation of 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' do you prefer?


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