Netflix is on a roll people! In the past year, Netflix’s original programming has become a major player in the TV game, battling along long time main stay cable networks such as HBO, Showtime, FX, USA, and AMC. Netflix decided they wanted a piece of the television action and have taken a huge bite of the pie. In 2013, Netflix decided to develop a streaming network service that would start competing with cable and network television. With their shows, full seasons would be available the viewers disposal, so it gives the viewer the opportunity to watch the series at their leisure. What this means for me is…BINGE WATCHING! There is no better way to watch a show than to binge watch it. Yes, you become a complete couch potato and waste to society for a specific amount of time, but you don’t have to worry about any spoiler alerts happening because you are watching one episode unfold after another. In 2013 so far, Netflix has brought us the Emmy nominated series, “House of Cards” starring Kevin Spacey, ” the horror drama, “Hemlock Grove,” and brought back the comedy critical darling, “Arrested Development.” The latest masterpiece from Netflix is the female prison dramedy, “Orange is the New Black.” And it has quickly become one of my favorite shows on TV.
I never would have thought I would be so into a female version “Oz.” “Orange is the New Black” reminds me of an all female “Oz” club. The characters on this show are so rich, intriguing, and heavy. They are complicated. They are misunderstood. They are searching for redemption. They are eclectic. They are extremely diverse. The actresses who are playing these prison inmates are doing a phenomenal job of bringing these women’s stories to the small screen. The cast of this show is top notch and have been a pleasure to watch as Season 1 has unfolded. It also the first show since “Oz” to take a look at the lives of convicted felons. Although this show is fiction, it is a first hand account from someone who lived under these conditions. I think at times we tend to generalize prisons being made up of hardened male criminals, but this show is a clear reminder that women commit crimes too and they can be just as intense as their male counterparts. If prison is a microcosm of a portion of society, “Orange is the New Black” represents a wide spectrum of what our actual melting pot is and the wrong doings and missteps that could potentially reside in or being carried out by any one of us. Who of us have lived a mistake free life? (Or made mistakes for which we never got caught) Who of us have reacted irrationally out of fear, loyalty or betrayal? Who of us have never acted out irrationally when in love? The characters on this show are relatable because the reasons why they have ended up in prison are some mistakes that the everyday individual could make.
“Orange is the New Black” is a new series created by Jenji Kohan, who also created another cable gem, Showtime’s “Weeds.” “Orange” is based on the true life story of Piper Kerman, who wrote a memoir titled, “Orange is the New Black” based on her experiences in prison, which the show is based on. The lead of this amazing ensemble cast is relative newcomer, Taylor Schilling, who plays Piper Chapman, a woman who is sent to prison for being involved in drug trafficking. Laura Prepon, from “That 70’s Show” fame stars as Alex Vause, Piper’s former girlfriend, who got Piper into the drug smuggling game. Piper is sent to prison, in Litchfield, NY for 15 months for moving a suitcase of drug money for her former girlfriend Alex, who ends up in the same prison with her. This creates an interesting dynamic between the two of them as well as Piper’s current fiancé, Larry, played by Jason Biggs, of “American Pie” fame. The show revolves around Piper’s life in prison, with her trying to find her way with her fellow inmates, maintain her relationship with Larry, examine her relationship with Alex, and survive the harsh realities of being incarcerated. The show lends itself to an array of emotions as you become attached to these women’s stories and their backgrounds.
In my opinion, one of the best aspects of the show, besides the top notch writing, is the performances of the ensemble. Michelle Hurst plays Miss Claudette, Piper’s roomate who is feared by her fellow inmates. She has got old school toughness to her. Miss Claudette takes no crap from anyone. Kate Mulgrew plays Galina “Red” Rexnikov, who runs the prison’s kitchen and carries a lot of weight around the facility. She is a mover and a shaker on the series, who has key relationships Michael J. Harney plays Sam Healy, a correctional officer and social worker at the prison who has an issue with lesbians. This becomes problematic down the road for Alex and Piper, and that’s all I will say about that. And the amazing and incredibly underrated Taryn Manning stars as Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett, a drugged out prisoner who preaches about God and healing and saving others. She plays this character soooooooo well. The remainder of the incredible cast goes on and on, (I can go on for two more paragraphs about them all, but I don’t want to bore you. Just watch the show and you’ll know what i’m talking about) as many of the characters are regulars in the series and receive quite a bit of face time throughout the season.
We have reached an amazing point in the history of American television. Never has there been so many well-written, well-casted, plot heavy shows available to us on a daily basis. There are so many good ones on right now that it is hard to keep up with them all. You almost have to binge watch these shows at other times then they originally air just so you can keep up with all of the different story lines. We are somewhat spoiled right now in terms of consistency among the cable networks responsible for bringing such profound and groundbreaking television to our homes. Whether its “Breaking Bad,” “Homeland,” “Mad Men,” “Games of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Shameless,” “The Newsroom,” “Suits,” “The Bridge,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Americans,” “Dexter,” and now “Orange is the New Black,” the greatest and juiciest roles are starting to be had on the small screen, which is why you see so many big name stars jumping ship to TV. The creative wonders behind shows like “Orange” and the ones I listed before are experts in storytelling and learned how to redefine modern theater from an amazing group of predecessors including “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “The Shield,” and “Lost,” just to name a few. “Jenji Kohan has created a wonderful show that looks at the harsh realities of prison life. The show is constantly overlapping themes of comedy and drama, and finds ways to make these women very relatable. I can’t believe I have to wait a whole year until season 2 comes out. (Rumor is that it wont be back on until 2014) However, being available on Netflix, allows me to relive this awesomely intense series whenever I want. So I know I will be seeing more of Piper and the gang before twenty fourteen.
Good thing I look good in orange. It really is becoming one of my favorite colors.