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Alfre Woodard and K. Todd Freeman Encounter A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix

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Featured Image: Netflix

“If you were interested in stories with happy endings, then you would be better off somewhere else,” an ominous narrator warns his audience in the opening of the new Netflix show “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” starring Emmy winner Alfre Woodard and Tony nominee K. Todd Freeman. This deterrent, as well as the short pause allowing viewers time to push the back button, sets the tone for the grim, sordid tale to follow.

Based on the 13-book series written by Lemony Snicket (the author), Lemony Snicket (the character) played by Patrick Warburton, laments the depressing story of The Baudelaire Orphans, three young children left under a cycle of negligent guardians, each worse than the last, after their parents perish in a terrible fire.

None of them quite so terrible, however, as the first — the cruel Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris), a mediocre actor and eccentric criminal after the fortune Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire’s parents left behind.

In the eight-episode season, which follows the first four books, the crafty, bookish, and sharp-toothed Baudelaires evade Count Olaf at every turn. But he won’t rest until he gets his hands on that fortune, and so, with his theatre troupe of henchmen, he reappears in the children’s lives, each time under a new disguise, effectively repeating the same formula every episode. New guardian, Count Olaf appears, Baudelaires expose him.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Woodard plays the children’s third guardian, Aunt Josephine, a widow and panophobic grammar-Nazi with close ties to the children’s parents. Originally portrayed by Meryl Streep in the mixed-reviewed 2004 film adaptation, which starred Jim Carrey, Josephine is described as a “fierce and formidable woman” when her husband Ike was alive. Now she’s afraid of realtors.

Freeman (Wicked, Airline Highway) plays a financial banker named Mr. Arthur Poe, the executor of the Baudelaire estate. While he means well, he’s, in fact, a bumbling idiot completely ignorant of the children’s plight and oblivious of Count Olaf’s ridiculous disguises. He not only delivers the news of their parent’s death but, due to his misinterpretation of the will, he’s partly to blame for placing them in Count Olaf’s care in the first place.

Image: Joe Lederer/Netflix

Both brilliantly capture their characters’ odd tics and nuances, and Freeman is certainly a standout in the series (see: any of his scenes at Mulctuary Money Management). His repetitive delivery of “Jacquelyn, can you bring the Baudelaire file in here please?” alone deserves an Emmy nod.

In a bleak, anachronistic world of untrustworthy and useless adults, secret organizations, and treacherous leeches, the story has more wit and charm than it sounds.

While self-deprecating and sarcastic, Daniel Handler (the man behind the pen name Lemony Snicket), also serving as writer and executive producer, has created a setting where, despite the horrors Violet, Klaus, and Sunny face, we laugh at the dark humor and absurdity of it all.

Take, for instance, Cleo King (a bit player, but a scene-stealer) who plays Poe’s wife, Eleanora, editor-in-chief of The Daily Punctilio. “I had my star reporter write an article for the front page so that everyone will know that your home was destroyed and you’re orphans now!” she proudly exclaims, flaunting a newspaper at the dinner table in front of the Baudelaires with the blaring headline, “Baudelaire Mansion Destroyed,” thinking it would cheer them up. “Some people wait a lifetime for that!”

True to the nature and tone of the books, the series obliterates the fourth wall by poking fun at itself, subtly taking shots at the “godforsaken Nickelodeon” movie to the idea of “streaming content from the comfort of one’s home.”

Every now and then, Snicket might even stop the action to explain the meaning of a word, or provide some commentary on current social issues relating to whatever is happening. Also, devoted fans of the books should keep an eye out for various easter eggs scattered throughout.

The series has received rave reviews, with a second season (following books five through nine) in the works.

Stream Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix.

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Coming Soon

HBO Releases Trailer for Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, April 22nd Premiere Date

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henrietta lacks

Broadway’s greats have gathered to bring the legacy of Henrietta Lacks to HBO. Her life began in 1920 in Roanoke, VA, but her legacy lives on today. In January of 1951, she received a  diagnosis of cervical cancer, which would be one of the important moments in medical history–and one of the most invasive.

Henrietta died in 1951 when the tumor spread throughout her body. During Henrietta’s treatment and diagnosis, her cells were taken without her consent or knowledge; her physicians would go on to use her cells for medical advancement. Twenty-four years passed until Lacks’ family became aware of this injustice.

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Image: HBO

In 2010, Oprah Winfrey confirmed development of Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed, bestselling nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks into an HBO film. Filming began in 2016, and at long last, HBO has finally released a trailer!

The trailer features Broadway producer Winfrey as Lacks’ daughter, Deborah Lacks. The trailer feels as intense as Lacks’ story. Hamilton’s Tony winner Renée Elise Goldsberry plays the role of Henrietta. Even in the trailer, their connection seems palpable; Henrietta died when Deborah was just two and the trailer shows Deborah’s desperate pursuit for her mother’s memory.

The cast also features performances by Reg E. Cathey (The Shawshank Redemption), Adriane Lenox (Doubt: The Parable), and Courtney B. Vance (The People v. OJ Simpson, Lucky Guy),  Leslie Uggams (Deadpool, Hallelujah, Baby!), and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Seven Guitars, Jitney). Shuffle Along’s George C. Wolfe directs from his screenplay adaptation of the novel.

The movie airs on HBO on April 22.

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Award Nominations

Could The Color Purple Be On Its Way to an Emmy Award?

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Just one month after scoring a Grammy Award for “Best Musical Theater Album,” The Color Purple, which starred Tony and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo, may get an Emmy as well. Announced on March 22nd, one of their live television performances received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for “Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program.”

Last year, as part of the NBC Citi Concert Series on Today Show’s Best of Broadway Week, the cast of The Color Purple made a guest appearance to sing the title number of the musical, led by Erivo. In a performance that left us breathless and astonished, this would appropriately be the same morning the cast learned they received four Tony nominations, including “Best Revival of a Musical.”

Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple first appeared on Broadway in 2005, earning 11 Tony nominations. The recent scaled down version, directed by John Doyle, opened in December of 2015, and ran for 450 performances before closing on January 8th, 2017.

A North American tour launches in the fall later this year. Check The Color Purple for more information.

Now we can’t help but wish for a musical film adaptation, with Erivo reprising Celie. We’ve no doubt she’d easily snatch up her EGOT-status. Regardless, congratulations are in order for the cast of The Color Purple!

Edit: While this is the first time a Broadway production has been nominated in these categories, Erivo and the cast will not actually be eligible to receive the award. Instead it will go to the program that hosted the performance.

Bummer.

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