Tag Archives: TV Review

Lemony Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

UnfortunateEventsOrdinarily I don’t review television programs, but there have been enough exceptions that I’m not breaking a rule at this point, you’re just experiencing another edge case.

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is proving to be delightful. I’ve watched the first four episodes, and I’m hooked. The series has two of my favorite things in it: clever writing, and Patrick Warburton. Imagine Kronk, or perhaps The Tick narrating in the bleak tones of Lemony Snicket, and warning you at the beginning of each episode that you really don’t want to continue.

It’s a bold move. When your story, as part of the story, is telling people not to keep reading, or watching, you’d better be doing it in a manner so entertaining that the audience hopes the warnings will continue.

In this case it is, and they do.

There’s much more than just dire warning working in favor of this series. Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes are awesome, Presley Smith would chew scenery if given the chance, and over-the-top melodramatic performances are turned in by Neil Patrick Harris, Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Usman Ally, Joyce and Jacqueline Robbins, and Cobie Smulders, and I’m only halfway through.

Were this series available on Blu-Ray or DVD I’d cheerfully pay season-of-TV-series rates for it. It’s not, but by that math the series totally paid for two months of Netflix just by existing.


The Expanse. It is Just. That. Good.

I’m amazed by how good SyFy’s The Expanse is.

TheExpanseIt is head-and-shoulders above anything else in TV science-fiction, with the possible exception of The Martian, which was a movie. Yes, I include Star Trek, Babylon V, and Firefly.

Here’s my stake in the ground: In 2020 we’ll look at the state of science fiction programming, and ask ourselves how we got into this golden age. Then we’ll look back and say “ah. The Expanse. It set a new bar, and for the last five years everybody has been racing to clear it.”

The Expanse has flaws, sure. It’s a television program, after all. The series of books from which it is drawn are solid, but they’re not epic-level standouts of literary science fiction. That’s okay. They’re worlds better than what usually gets turned into TV programming, and the folks working on them are doing everything they can to convince us that the characters we’re following live in space, on asteroids, in accelerating vessels, and (most importantly) in our future.

This is science fiction that manages sense-of-wonder without sugar coating the dangers of space exploration. It is science fiction that depicts many of the grim realities of human nature, while still instilling hope for the amazing things humans can, and will, create. It is science fiction that does not feel like high-magic fantasy wrapped in robots and ray-guns.

Minor spoiler: There’s one scene in particular during which a vessel loses power, and stops accelerating. Everything starts floating. Then a hole gets punched through the cabinThe characters still able to move spend no more than three seconds looking shocked, and then they do what people who live in space do. They patch the holes so they don’t run out of air.

The Expanse is very non-episodic, much like Netflix’s Daredevil. Each episode is one act in a multi-act story, and while these acts have beginnings, middles, and ends, the overarching story is never lost as we drive forward. I bought the Season Pass on Amazon because I expect to binge watch this at least a couple of times before (huzzah it got renewed!) Season Two comes out.

We’re only six seven episodes in, and the season is short, but if you love science fiction, and you have sufficient discretionary income to let you comfortably put some money where your mouth is, this one’s worth buying now.

Content alert: There’s some PG-13 nudity in episode 1, presumably to rope puerile male viewers into thinking this is Game of Thrones (episodes 2 through 6 have none of that in them). Also, there is PG-13 violence, and can I just say that arterial spray in null-gee is terrifying?