Friday, May 25, 2018

3 TV Adaptations of the First Narnia Book BEFORE the Big Budget Movie

         Following in the footsteps of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was released in December 2005, with a budget of $180 million.  The success of the first led to two sequels, though any further big screen adaptations of the Narnia series have yet to be seen.  However, this was not the first adaption of the first Narnia book on screen.  In fact, there has been not one but three TV adaptations made based on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe over the years.
         The first TV adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was made in 1967 and broadcast on ITV in black and white.  This version was made as a 10-episode serial (30 minutes each episode) broadcast from July 9 to September 10. It starred Zuleika Robson as Susan, Liz Crowther as Lucy, Paul Waller as Peter, Edward McMurray as Edmund, Elizabeth Wallace as the White Witch, and Bernard Kay as Aslan.   The animals were portrayed by actors in costumes, not puppets.  Unfortunately, the only parts that survive today are the first and eighth parts. 

      The second TV adaptation was broadcast on CBS on April 1, 1979, as an animated TV movie.  This was a production of Children's Television Workshop and directed by Bill Melendez, best known for directing many Peanuts specials.  The American version had Rachel Warren as Lucy, Susan Sokol as Susan, and Reg Williams as Peter, and Simon Adams as Edmund. Some of the actors were changed for the UK version: for example, in England, Edmund was played by Nicolas Barnes.  The White Witch was played by Beth Porter (US) and Shelia Hancock (UK).  Aslan was played by Stephen Thorne (US and UK).  The CBS version was a huge success, with 37 million viewers tuning in.  It also won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.
     The third and most well-known television adaptation was broadcast on BBC in 1988, again using the 30-minute serial format.  This version had six episodes and used people in costumes and puppets.  It was broadcast between November 13 and December 18.  It starred Richard Dempsey as Peter, Sophie Cook as Susan, Jonathan R. Scott as Edmund, Sophie Wilcox as Lucy, Barbra Kellerman as the White Witch and Ailsa Berk as Aslan.  This version was nominated for Outstanding Children's Program(me) for both the Emmys and the BAFTA Awards but failed to win for either (it did win a BAFTA award for Best Video Lighting).  This serial was actually renewed, and the BBC made two more seasons, the second season comprising of a two-part Prince Caspian and four-part Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in 1989), and the third season comprising of a six-part serial of The Silver Chair (in 1990).  As of this writing, the BBC version of The Silver Chair is the only version of that book put on screen.

       While today, these versions look a little primitive, nevertheless each one was made with the intention to bring the first Narnia book faithfully to the screen.  Even the animated version, which doesn't look that great compared to today's technology, nevertheless was a huge hit at the time of release.  Check out these TV adaptations of The Lion, The Witch,  and The Wardrobe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Summer Schedule: Disney Channel One Season Wonders

      Once again, the summer blogs are once a month instead of once a week.  Like the past two summers, this summer will feature a series connected by a theme.  This summer, the series is Disney Channel One Season Wonders!  The schedule is as follows:

      June: Live Action Edition
      July: Cartoon Edition
      August: Totally Edition

       A few notes: This list will not include shows that had one season on Disney Channel and then went on to elsewhere (such as Good Morning, Miss Bliss which is considered by many as the first season of Saved by the Bell).  One and done seasons.  This list will also not include short series, like Mike's Super Short Show or As the Bell Rings.  And this is by no means an exhaustive list, and it will not include game shows or prank show (at least not during the summer...).

    As for the last May blog post next week, let's just say it involves a lion, a witch, and a...well, you'll have to wait until Friday to find out.

Friday, May 18, 2018

3 Books Which Received TV Adaptations BEFORE their Big Budget Movies

             It's finally here!  The big budget theatrical movie based on the bestselling novel released across the US and the world, its appeal catering to fans of the book.  For many fans, the first time they see their book adapted, it is on the big screen.  But for the rare few, there are some books that were adapted for the small screen before their later Big Budget movies.  Here are three Books which received TV adaptations before their big budget movies.
            The $100 Million A Wrinkle in Time movie was released on March 9, 2018, based on the fantasy novel of the same name by Madeline L'Engle, published in 1968.  The story concerns Meg, a teenage girl, who, along with her brother Charles and friend Calvin, must travel to different worlds in search of her father.  Three supernatural beings, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which help the three along the way.  The big budget movie starred Storm Reid (Meg), Levi Miller (Calvin), Deric McCabe (Charles), with Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit), Mindy Kaling (Mrs. Who), Chris Pine as the father and was directed by Ava DuVernay.  Released to mixed reviews, the movie made $128 million currently at the box office.  But the first version of A Wrinkle in Time was released on May 10, 2004, on ABC.   This version had a troubled production history.  The movie was shot in the Spring of 2001 with the intention of being a miniseries, and while a promo on the Spy Kids DVD in the Fall of 2001, A Wrinkle in Time wasn't aired at all in 2002 or 2003.  Finally, the movie premiered, in the middle of the week, as a one-night, 3-hour movie on ABC.  This version starred Katie Stuart (Meg) Gregory Smith (Calvin) David Dorfman (Charles), along with Kate Nelligan (Mrs. Which), Allison Elliot (Mrs. Who), Alfre Woodward (Mrs. Whatsit) and Chris Potter as the father; the movie was directed by John Kent Harrison.  The TV movie was later released on DVD on November 16, 2004, with deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview with Madeline L'Engle.  (It should be noted that the L'Engle expected the TV version to be bad, and in her eyes, "it was." 
             A $20 million theatrical version of Bridge to Terebithia was brought to the screen on February 16, 2007, based on the novel by Katherine Paterson, published in 1977.   The main character of the story is Jesse Aaron, the 10-year-old who struggles to fit in with his large family with many siblings.  In the new school year, he meets and gets to know Leslie Burke, the 10-year-old only child next door, and also finds help with the school's music teacher, Miss Edmunds.  Jesse and Leslie find an abandoned tree house and imagine that they are in the land of Terabithia.  This version starred Josh Hutcherson (Jesse), AnnaSophia Robb (Leslie), Zooey Deschanel (Ms. Edmunds) with Robert Patrick as Jesse's father and Kate Butler as Jesse's mother.  Bridge to Terabithia was directed by Gábor Csupó, and co-written by David L. Paterson, Katherine's son.  The movie was released to mostly positive reviews, with many praising it as a faithful adaptation of the novel, and made $138 million at the box office, making it a modest success.   But the first version of Bridge to Terebithia was released on PBS on February 4, 1985.  This version starred Julian Coutts (Jesse), Julie Beaulieu (Leslie) Annette O'Toole (Miss Edmunds), with Tom Heaton as Jesse's father and Gloria Carlin as Jesse's mother.
            The $60 million movie The Bourne Identity was released on June 14, 2002, and was based on the spy thriller of the same name by Robert Ludlum.  While many details were changed from the book, the main central concept remained the same: A man suffering from amnesia, Jason Bourne, finds out he was a trained assassin and is hunted by several shadow organizations and the CIA.  Along the way, he is joined by a woman named Marie who helps him uncover his past while outrunning the people trying to kill him.  The movie starred Matt Damon (Jason Bourne) and Franka Potente (Marie) and was directed by Doug Liman.   This loose adaptation of the novel made $214 million at the International Box Office, making it a success.  However, a television miniseries was the first adaptation of The Bourne Identity and was released on May 8 and 9 in two parts, for a total of four hours running time (with commercials).  This version starred Richard Chamberlain as Bourne and Jaclyn Smith as Marie and was directed by Rodger Young. The miniseries version has minor deviations but is considered a much more faithful version to the novel than the Matt Damon movie.
          Just because a huge big budget adaption was released to theaters, doesn't mean that it's the only version out there sometimes.  Check out these TV adaptions which were released before their theatrical counterparts on the big screen.       

Friday, May 11, 2018

Will Harry Potter be Remade?

       On November 13, 2017, Amazon announced that it would be a making a massive, multi-season adaption of Lord of the Rings.  Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series, Amazon Studios, professed, “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”  This despite that, less than 20 years ago, the Lord of the Rings movie series was released from 2001 to 2003 (2002 to 2004 for the Extended Editions) and became a huge worldwide hit and beloved series to many fans.  The Lord of the Rings movies, for many people, was the definitive adaptation of Lord of the Rings. This is just one example of many famous book franchises getting a new version (A Series of Unfortunate Events was originally a 2003 movie before getting a Netflix series in 2017 is one example, while in 2003 A Wrinkle in Time was adapted into a TV movie, and then again into a big budget movie in 2018.)  Which leads us to Harry Potter.  My friend Nikki worried that Harry Potter might get remade just like the classics get remade every 20 or 30 years.   Well, let's examine the reasons for or against.
     The reasons against remaking the Harry Potter movies (released from 2001 to 2011) are many.  For starters, just like the Lord of the Rings, for many people, the movies are the definitive cinematic version of the books.  There are no other actors fans would want to see portraying the roles on screen, for example.   The time and care that the original filmmakers took to make the world believable, to make the world real, cannot be denied.    Let's also not forget that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, had a direct hand in all the movies (and the prequel franchise, and the creation of the Wizarding World areas in the theme parks, and the stage play).  She gave her personal stamp of approval on all the movies, so why remake them?  And just like the books, a generation grew up watching the Harry Potter movies, so there is a definitely a sense of nostalgia surrounding the original movies.   Here's a video of J.K. Rowling praising Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson before the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2:
      Nevertheless, there is some definite criticism that is leveled at the movies.  Cinefix's 3-Part What's the Difference and The Dom's massive 13-Part Lost in Adaptation Harry Potterathon on YouTube will tell you exactly what each of the Potter movies left out of the original books.  This especially includes the details left out of the fourth, fifth and sixth movies (which were adapted Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince, all over 500 pages long) drew major criticism from fans.  Here are two examples: Hermonie's drive to free all the house elves is cut entirely and favorite character Dobby only appears in movies 2 and 7, despite having a role in books 4, 5, and 6.  Of course, to keep the movie down to a reasonable running time, side plots had to be cut and only the most important story points were brought to the screen.  Here's Part 1 of What's the Difference's Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Chamber of Azkaban:
       So, if Harry Potter were to be remade, a serious argument could be made for a limited series with an eye on keeping more of the details and the subplots in the books.  The early, shorter books would get a shorter, 2-3 episode story arc, while the longer books would get more episodes, say 6-8, thereby expanding the world of the story, deepening the depth of the characters, giving more time to favorite supporting characters, and filling in many of the details that the movies had to cut out due to running time.  Naturally, some changes would have to be made due to story structure, but the idea is to adapt the books more faithfully to the screen.  The world of the books could be more expanded, more explored, and more life could be given to every single character within the universe of Harry Potter. IF Harry Potter were to be remade, that is a potential way it could be redone.
      The difference (and it is a big one) between the new streaming adaption of Lord of the Rings and a potential remake of the Harry Potter series is that the author of Harry Potter is still alive, and still personally involved in every project related to Harry Potter.  The Lord of the Rings adaptation was made after negotiations with J.R.R. Tolkien's estate and does not have the personal stamp of approval from the original author.  I personally don't believe that J.K. Rowling would approve of making a second adaptation of her beloved novels be made during her life since she was involved in and gave approval to all 8 movies based on all 7 novels.  Fans of the original movies have nothing to worry about, for a long, long time.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Two Best Non-Romantic Single Father Movies

         So often, in movies about single fathers, one of the goals (if not the singular goal) is to provide a romantic interest to the father, thereupon making the single father not single anymore.  In this post, inspired by my cousin Sam's request to write about single parenting, it made me realized that most movies about single dads presented them as an ideal romantic conquest.  Not that those movies are bad movies, but are there good movies about single fathers, who work hard and raise their children, without a romantic main plot or subplot?  As a matter of fact, there are!  Here are two great non-romantic movies about single fathers; it is unfortunate that both films are for adults and not for the whole family.  (Note: I had some help from this list.)
       The first Father on this list from the movie The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), is actually based on a true story.  In this movie, Chris Gardner is a salesman who decides to put his entire money into boney density scanners which are super expensive and only sold to doctors and hospitals.  Unfortunately, he doesn't sell all of them and their financial troubles result in his wife leaving him and his son, Chris Jr.  Eventually, the IRS and the government take what little money he does have, leaving him and his son homeless, and he loses the last bone scanner he was hoping to sell.  Chris applies and receives an internship that is on the way to being stockbroker...but the internship is unpaid.  Though he and Chris Jr. are homeless, he still takes care of his son and refuses to give up.  He finds the bone scanner he lost, is able to repair it and sell it to a doctor.  And at the final interview, though he is dressed shabbily, he wins the stockbroker job and eventually becomes the head of his own brokerage firm.  Chris is an ideal single father because he always kept a realistic but positive attitude around his son, and he never gave up, despite his circumstances.  He wasn't perfect by any means (his method of not paying money he owed caught up to him), he was a loving, caring father who figured out by his own unique way out of his homeless situation and still cares for his son.  

          The second single father is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.  In this story, Jean Louise "Scout" and Jeremy Atticus "Jem" are children of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in a racially charged small town in the 1930s. Atticus believes he should treat all people fairly, turn the other cheek and stand for your beliefs and values.  In the beginning, the children are live happy lives, their own concern is the mysterious Boo who stays in his home.  But soon, the children are witnesses to their father becoming the lawyer to Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.  Atticus stays at the prison to prevent Tom from being lynched, and later at the trial, tries his best to defend a man wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit.  Tom is found guilty and later is killed while "trying to escape."  Scout and Jem, coming back from a Halloween pageant and cutting through the woods, are attacked by an unknown man but are saved by "Boo," whose real name is Arthur Radley.  Radley killed the assailant, who is revealed to be, Bob Elwell, the violent father of the woman who accused Tom of rape.  The Sherrif agrees to keep Radley's killing of a secret, and the story ends.   Atticus is a great single father because he refuses to compromise his values, standing for what he knows is right.  He helps his children understand to look at people not as others or outsiders, but as real people.  Scout and Jem grow up, but with the help of a morally strong father of Atticus Finch.

       While there are other non-romantic single father movies out there, none of them match the first two, so here are some honorable mentions: Finding Nemo, the Pixar film about the clownfish father who will stop at nothing to find his lost son.  Three Men and A Baby, a comedy about two men who must care for a baby girl when the girl is dropped off at their doorstep by the mother while their third roommate, the father, is away; later the father returns and bonds with the baby girl as well.  I am Sam, the drama film about a father who is mentally challenged and struggles with to keep custody of his seven-year-old daughter.  The Descendants, about a father who wants to reconnect with his two troubled girls while also dealing the decision to take his comatose wife off of life support.  Signs, a supernatural horror film, about a father who tries to protect his family from aliens invading his farm.   
        I'm sure there are plenty more.  Great films about single fathers (and great films about single mothers as well) are definitely needed today.   Are there any other great films about single dads that you know, readers?  Let me know!   

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Three Former Paramount Networks

       On January 18, 2018, the cable channel Spike officially changed its name from Spike to the Paramount Network, in an attempt to show premium scripted programming, in the same way that the networks AMC (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) and FX (The Shield, American Horry Story) marketed their channels.  Four of the five upcoming shows are scripted, as opposed to the current programs, which are mostly reality shows.  But this is not the only time Paramount tried to make a network.  In fact, Paramount attempted to make three broadcast networks previously, none of which currently exist. Here are the three former Paramount Networks.
          The first Paramount Network was called the Paramount Television Network and lasted from 1948 to 1956.  Before the Network was launched, Paramount had purchased a stake in early broadcast television network DuMont in 1938.  But in 1940, Paramount created two of its own television stations, KTLA in Los Angeles, and WBKB in Chicago, without DuMont's involvement.  Naturally, the people at DuMont were unhappy, and throughout both network's reign, relations were strained (the DuMont network lasted from 1946 to 1956).  DuMont did have KTLA as a station from 1947 to 1948 but in 1948, the station disaffiliated from the Network.  Paramount saw the opportunity to create their own network and used KTLA and WBKB as their stations.  Paramount began producing their own television shows, the most popular of which were the children's program Time for Beany and the wrestling show Hollywood Wrestling.  However, Paramount only owned two stations, and the shows produced were distributed nationwide to stations not owned by Paramount.  In 1953, the network ABC and United Paramount Theaters (which owned Paramount Television Network at the time).  The long and complicated merger (with dealings with the FCC, and fights about who owned the DuMont station, since Paramount had a minority stake in the company) sold the Chicago station to CBS, leaving Paramount with only one station to its name.  The station limped along for three more years while losing sponsors or favorite programs ending.  Paramount Television Network officially ended in 1956, but the Network still produced shows that were made on the other broadcast networks.
        The second Paramount Network was to be called the Paramount Television Service.  After the end of DuMont and Paramount in the 1950s, the big three (CBS, ABC, and NBC) were the only major broadcast networks left.  Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, no one tried to create a network to rival them.  But in 1976, Paramount Pictures bought the Hughes Television Network (which were originally the Sports Network Incorporated, a station which broadcast sports events, but in 1968, Howard Hughes' Hughes Tool Company bought the SNI and changed the name).  Spearheaded by Barry Diller, at the time the Chairman and CEO, Paramount announced in 1977 that they would create a fourth network, called the Paramount Television Service.  The plan was to show mostly the Paramount movie library in its primetime schedule, along with a new Star Trek series, Star Trek: Phase II (which is what the network is mostly remembered for today), and use independent stations throughout the US to broadcast the show and movies.  However, Paramount Board and studio chief Charles Bluhdorn ultimately decided to stop developing the network in 1978, with Bluhdorn worried about the cost of such a venture.  Still, because of Star Trek: Phase II, the proposed network is not forgotten.
      The third broadcast network was finally the fully realized vision of a network for Paramount: United Paramount Network, or UPN, was launched in 1995.  In 1991, Paramount bought the assets of the TVX Broadcasting Group, which owned independent stations in several markets.  In 1993, Paramount (which at the time was owned by Viacom) along with Chris Craft Industries, announced a new television network, called United Paramount Network.  Chris Craft owned the stations, while Paramount produced the content.  UPN started programming on two nights, Monday and Tuesday, with the flagship show, Star Trek: Voyager, premiering in January 1995.  Unfortunately, none of the other show gained any sort of audience, and Voyager never achieved came close to premiere ratings throughout the rest of its run.  Still, UPN attempted to expand its programming, with shows on Wednesday nights starting in 1996 and Thursday and Fridays in 1998.  In 1996 Viacom purchased a 50% stake in Chris Craft Industries, and in 1999, after Viacom merged with CBS Corporation, Viacom purchased the other 50% of the stake, making the stations entirely owned by Paramount (also at the time United Paramount Network officially became just UPN.  In January 2005, however, Viacom split into two different companies: Viacom, which owned Paramount Pictures, and CBS Corporation, which gained UPN.  A year later, in January 2006 (the same month the deal was finalized), CBS and Time Warner announced that The WB (a rival network to UPN, launched about the same time) would merge with UPN and become The CW.   Eleven of the UPN affiliates became part of The CW; however the nine affiliates owned by Fox Television Stations were not part of the merger and became the much smaller broadcast network MyNetwork TV.  The MyNetwork TV stations' last UPN day was August 31, while The CW last network day was September 15, 2006.
      Paramount's attempts at broadcast networks have had a rocky history, one of their attempted networks never even made it to air.  Even the most successful attempt, UPN, only lasted eleven years.  Time will tell if the newly formed Paramount Network will experience the success and longevity that Paramount Pictures always dreamed to have. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Everything Lemony Snicket: Beyond a Series of Unfortunate Events

           In 1999, one of the children's book series released around the same time as Harry Potter (which itself was released from 1997-2007) began with The Bad Beginning.  Starring a teenage Violet Baudelaire, a preteen Klaus, and a baby Sunny, the three protagonists parents' die and they must defend themselves from Count Olaf, who uses various disguises to try to get to the children's fortune.  One of the unique features of the series was the narrator and "author," Lemony Snicket.  Lemony is a character of sorts within the world of the books, commenting on his "investigations" in the lives of the Baudelaire children and dedicating each book to his dear departed Beatrice.  He would try to convince the reader that the story of the children was too awful to read, that anything else was more pleasant.  The original 13 book series, chronicling the lives of Baudelaire orphans, was released from 1999 to 2006.  However, there are several more Lemony Snicket books and stories out there, focusing more on the man himself.  Here are those stories.
            The first Lemony Snicket book was, of course, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.  Released in 2002, after the eighth novel, The Hostile Hospital was published in September 2001.  Featuring introductions by Daniel Handler (the real author), the book contains "documents," such as newspaper clips and letters, along with a mix of real 1930s photos mixed with new photos shot by Meredith Heuer and Julie Blattberg.  Being a Snicket book about "awful" things, the book has a reversible cover, for a much more "appropriate" title, that of a fictional book called The Luckiest Kids in the World: Book 1: The Pony Party.
        The second supplemental Snicket book was released in September 2006, one month before the final Series of Unfortunate Events book, The End, was to be published.  This Snicket book was called The Beatrice Letters.  The book contains 6 letters written by Snicket to his beloved, deceased, Beatrice, and six letters written by Beatrice to Snicket...however, the ones that "Beatrice" wrote were not from the same Beatrice that Snicket had been writing to all these years, but rather a character who shared the same name and was related to the original Beatrice.
       There were also two much shorter, official Snicket documents.  The first, released at the time of the theatrical movie, in 2004, was included in Lunchables boxes as a promotion.  Called "The Dismal Dinner", it was a four-part, four-page story which contained a scene from a dinner party with the Baudelaires before the parents died.  The second was a pamphlet called 13 Shocking Secrets you'll wish you never knew about Lemony Snicket, released in 2006, to get readers excited about the final Unfortunate Events book.
      In addition to those above stories, there were three companion books, which while written in the same style, did not contain any new information or plot about Snicket or the Baudelaire orphans.  The first was a 176-page journal called The Blank Book, published in 2004 and the second was another journal, which also contained quotes from the series, called The Notorious Notations, published in 2006.  The third book was a collection of puzzles and was published twice; first in 2004 as a companion to the movie, and later 2006 with more puzzles, with the relation to the movie removed.
       All of these above books and stories were in service to the 13 books of the original series.  But in 2012, Lemony Snicket made a reappearance, this time in his own series.  Called All the Wrong Questions, it followed 13-year-old Snicket,  investigating crimes in the town Stain'd-By-The-Sea with his chaperone, the incompetent S. Theodora Markson as a volunteer with the VFD.   Each title is a sentence with a question, asked at some point by Snicket himself.  The first book, Who Could That Be at This Hour? was published in 2012, the second, When Did You See Her Last? was published 2013, the third, Shouldn't You Be in School? was published in 2014, and the fourth and final, Why is This Night Different From All Other Nights? was published in 2015.   There is a companion book, called File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents (published 2014), which contain mysteries the readers themselves can solve, same as the Encyclopedia Brown series.
       There are also various titles published under the Lemony Snicket name which Daniel Handler wrote which have nothing to do with the character but rather written in the same style.  Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid, was published in 2007 and contains quotes from 13 different subjects.  There are three Christmas-themed short stories written by Snicket, The Baby in the Manger, The Lump of Coal, and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming.  Lemony Snicket also provided introductions to three books, The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily (Handler's favorite children's book; Snicket provides the intro to the English translation published in 2003), a short story compilation published in 2005 with an incredibly long title (The title starts with Noisy Outlaws...), and the 1989-1990 volume of The Complete Peanuts (published in 2013).  Finally, Snicket wrote a book and CD bundle in 2009, called The Composer is Dead, a murder mystery which was designed to teach the reader and listener about musical instruments; the music for the CD was composed by Nathaniel Stookey.  Here is a behind the scenes video about the production:
        Lemony Snicket, the clever narrator of the Series of Unfortunate Events, expanded beyond the original series to become a star in his own right.  He has appeared in his own series, an autobiography (unauthorized, of course), provided introductions to books, among many other things.  Check out all the various ways Lemony Snicket has invaded our world.