What I’m Watching: Netflix Originals Edition (The Get Down, One Day at a Time, A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Yikes, last time I thought about it it felt like Netflix still didn’t have that many original shows. Now it seems like everything I watch is a Netflix original! Anyway this is a rundown of three Netflix originals I’ve been watching lately.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Their clothing is too bright IMO. This is supposed to be Gothic, goshdangit!

This is good on a whole, I think. It’s a pretty faithful adaptation of very good source material, but it does enough to stake out its own identity that it doesn’t just feel like someone converted the books directly to a script. One of the best divergences is the more immediate introduction of the secret society stuff, which is used to link together the books so the whole thing feels more like a season of TV rather than four two-part TV movies.

I’m not sure about the fakeout parents and Jacquelyn, though. One of the consistent themes across the books was how there really were no competent adults on the Baudelaires’ side; even those who were sympathetic to them were ultimately not enough help. Jacquelyn almost stuck out as too normal within the show with how reasonable and competent she was, and her combined with the implication of the Baudelaires’ parents being alive sort of diluted the titular unfortunateness.

Interestingly, I think the show on a whole is less dark and hopeless than the books. The absurdness of the comedy is amplified by being on screen and a lot of the tragedy feels either glossed-over or weakened by the overall pretty wacky tone of the show. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–as someone familiar with the books, a lighter tone makes things more engaging as there’s less time spent on drama I know the outcome of–but it is a somewhat notable divergence from the books.

The adult cast does a very good job with their material, though, both comedic and serious. The adults’ dialogue is quick and expressive and it’s fun just to watch the actors deliver their lines. The kids, on the other hand, are somewhat dully written and the actors tend to seem like they’re struggling just to enunciate, let alone match the speed of their older colleagues. But with such vibrant supporting characters it’s not a huge deal if the protagonists are on the boring side. (And they do get some nice conflict/pathos in the Miserable Mill episodes.)

Also, am I forgetting something, or did the show basically steal the eyeglass thing from the movie? Could’ve stole the aesthetic while they were at it. The show is much more bright and cartoony than the book illustrations and movie, which I don’t love. There’s also a pervasive sense of cheapness to the visual design and copious CGI, which is to be expected from a TV show that only uses its sets for two episodes, but it’s still disappointing.

One Day at a Time

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Who do Netflix think they are, infringing on ABC’s family comedy brand?

I’m only three episodes into this but it might take me a while to finish this so I’m gonna write about it now. Anyway, it’s . . . fine. The comedy feels kind of tacked-on and very mug-for-the-camera-y, which might just be from the multi-camera format, I dunno.

The actually interesting/engaging/good thing about this show is its more serious stuff, which deals with social issues like sexism and religion and such. The writing is really smart here, with realistic arguments on either sides and no easy answers or Very Special Episode feeling.

The Get Down

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This show’s posters are super cool.

I have, like, nothing to say about this show. Not that it’s bad–it’s pretty good–but it feels kind of impenetrable to me when it comes to critical analysis.

Well, I can say that I find the often-weird editing just kind of annoying. And some of the plotting feels a bit contrived. But otherwise it’s quite enjoyable and the show is very evocative of a time and location I’ve no personal knowledge of.

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