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A Series of Fortunate Set Designs

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I have begun bingeing Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I highly recommend it.

It won’t be for everybody–it is, of course, based on a series of children’s books, so you have to be open to enjoying something that was originally meant mainly for kiddie tastes. I’m open to it, but I also think Netflix has elevated the source material to create a show that is weird, whimsical, poignant, dark and at times (surprisingly, wonderfully!) laugh-out-loud funny.

The show features a cast of thousands–everyone from Joan Cusack to Will Arnett to Alfre Woodard to Patrick Warburton–show up to remind you why these folks should be on our screens more. (!!) The child actors who play Violet, Klaus and Sunny are excellent. But it’s Neil Patrick Harris, playing Count Olaf, who steals every scene he’s in. He’s obviously having a blast playing Olaf and it shows. He is delightfully loathsome as the gnarled actor/count and delivers lines in a way that will sneak a laugh out of you without warning. (Seriously. I’m not an easy laugh and this guy elicits a chuckle or two from me every episode.)

This is all good stuff, but I have a confession to make: I mainly watch this show for its sets; they are luscious.

The show makes no effort to hide the fact that even its exterior scenes are filmed on a soundstage. It reminds of of the deliciously magical claustrophobic feeling that the sets in “The Wizard of Oz” evoked in me–that feeling that you were actually being plunked down in the pages of a book. And “Series'” sets are so over-the-top. Decrepit is ultra-decrepit (but still somehow gorgeous). A cheerful suburban home is a fantasyland of perfectly-manicured roses and potted geraniums. A city home is a ludicrously cramped dollhouse. A herpetologist’s home is surrounded by perfectly-tended boxwood reptiles. The libraries (everyone has a library!) are intimate yet reach three stories.

 It’s all off-kilter, it’s all whimsical and wonderful.

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