Netflix usually does a pretty good job with meta-humor in its ads—the trailer in which Albert Brooks implies he’s kidnapped a Netflix executive’s child is an all-time classic—and Tuesday’s trailer for the upcoming adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events makes the same play. In this case, a series of unfortunate events seems to have befallen the cast and crew of Netflix’s upcoming show, leading to, as Patrick Warburton puts it, “low morale, a phrase which here means ‘currently under observation for melancholia, ennui, and acute wistfulness.’ ” Warburton’s performance as Lemony Snicket (the pen name of actual person, A Series of Unfortunate Events author and Netflix series executive producer Daniel Handler) is suitably arch, but the best jokes here are throwaways: his mention of “indentured servants” working on the show and the crate in the background labeled “VERY FLAMMABLE DANDELIONS.” Less promising, however, is the snippet of Neil Patrick Harris Dr.-Horribling his way through an off-screen line as Count Olaf.
Still, the bar for Count Olaf screen performances was set pretty low by Jim Carrey in the 2004 feature film, so Harris has some room to maneuver before he’s accused of chewing scenery. For that matter, the film also set the bar pretty low for A Series of Unfortunate Events trailers, using the score from Edward Scissorhands and really playing up the wonder: “You’re invited to discover a world built by imagination,” the narrator says. By that standard, Warburton’s promise of “cruel whimsy and whimsical cruelty” is a step in the right direction. Sadly, Netflix is releasing A Series of Unfortunate Events on Jan. 13, the same weekend as Paramount’s Monster Trucks, so the world may never discover whether the show turned out to be any good. How unfortunate.