New Netflix series “hooks” viewers

I made a most fortunate decision Jan. 15 — to watch the 49-minute first episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” a new Netflix show derived from the novel series with the same title by Lemony Snicket.

Unlike many of my peers, I began the show with no expectations because I did not read the series growing up. That meant I had no clue what to expect, but the show is quick to explain.

The theme song describes the situation of Violet, 14, Klaus, 12 and Sunny, their infant sister. The Baudelaire children, as the narrator (Snicket portrayed by Patrick Warburton) often refers to them, are orphans who are sent to live with Count Olaf after the death of their parents. The theme song also reveals that Olaf is after their fortune in ways “not quite lawful.”

The song also includes a message that sticks with the theme: “Look away” because “this show will wreck your evening, your whole life and your day.”

This introduction is intriguing because it is the first to display the show’s embracement of breaking the fourth wall. Snicket does this in his introduction, too, as well as throughout the episode.

The children, particularly Violet and Klaus, are entertaining because of their superior wit. Violet often encourages her brother to quote sayings, which range from Albert Einstein to the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown. However, this intellect is often ignored when adults use large words around them and immediately follow them with a definition.

The show also offers hilarious juxtaposition. After the death of the children’s parents, many are rude or insensitive to them, such as the family of Mr. Poe, the banker charged with delivering the children to their closest living relative after their parents’ death.

The three siblings stay the night at Mr. Poe’s, and his wife and son tell them, “nobody asked you,” after Klaus simply answers a question at dinner. However, the wife says it with a bright, perplexing tone.

Another example of this shocking contrast is the colors presented in the show. It starts with soft, cotton candy colors, which are a setup for the children meeting Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) in his gray, drab shack of a home.

Olaf is an actor, who is “excited to meet them,” and “he’s employed as an actor so you know his excitement is very genuine,” Mr. Poe says, adding to the show’s strong and enjoyable humor.

Olaf is the money-hungry caretaker the intro describes, but even worse, he is horrid to the children and self-centered.

As an avid “How I Met your Mother” fan, it was difficult for me not to see Barney Stinson, Harris’ character in the show, when looking at Olaf, especially since he did almost nothing to disguise his young voice with his older-looking character.

I easily overcame this, though, when Olaf’s eccentricity and distaste for the children grows violent. The tone of the show becomes serious, and it would have been too intense if not for the setup of the rest of the show.

The episode ended by revealing a goal for the children: to improve their living situation and solve the mystery of their parent’s death, which grew more mysterious at the end scene.

I will continue to root for the children throughout the other seven episodes of the season, and I feel many who try the first episode will do the same. The show will be especially entertaining for those who enjoy dry humor and determined characters.

Overall, I give the show 4 out of 5 stars for its intrigue, depth of character development and attention to detail, as well as high contrasts of humor and seriousness that somehow work and has me hooked.