There are three very obvious things I can tell you right off the bat about the new Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, but the only one that really matters is that Netflix is playing with the big boys now and it’s AWESOME. Coming off the heels of the breakout hit House of Cards (nominated for 9, that’s right, NINE Emmy’s) and the hugely anticipated fourth season of Arrested Development everyone is saying that the way in which we, the audience, view quality original programming has officially changed and Netflix is the new usher. HIZAH!
It’s basically Weeds if Nancy Botwin had gone to prison, and you can thank co-creator and former EP of Weeds, Jenji Kohan for that one. Some might say that’s over simplifying the character but in my opinion (and remember, this is my blog so really my opinion is the only one that matters) they are one in the same. It’s the classic story of a middle-class, white women who has to make the best out of a shitty situation, and because she’s surrounded by minorities, crimes, drugs, and the like hilarity & drama ensues. It’s loosely based off of the true life events of Piper Kerman and her subsequent book detailing her experience in a women prison because of some lesbian drug smuggling yada, yada, yada, Nancy Botwin.
What I Loved…
First off, mad props to Netflix for airing an entire season all at once. Just when I thought procrastination couldn’t get any worse ( I’m looking at you Candy Crush) here comes another awesome, hour long dramedy that I could sink my teeth into, AMAHZING. The best part of this prison nightmare is the intricate stories woven into the plot lines about how each character got thrown in jail that really had me. Add to that the subtle nod to the faultiness of our current correctional system and you have the main gems that is this show. Where it differs from Weeds, and why I think it’s a better show all around is it’s treatment of it’s characters. Weeds was notorious for making us hate all of its characters with very little room for sympathy. We never felt bad for Nancy and her crew because they were flawed humans with not a single thread of human decency. We didn’t feel bad when Nancy’s shenanigans left her high and dry, in fact it took all of my strength not to constantly yell “You dumb bitch,” at the television every time I watched the show (for the record I was a fan for most of the seasons but dipped out on the last season because it was almost too ridiculous). With Orange you never feel as if the characters had any other avenues open to them to have a normal life, whereas Nancy was always traveling head first further and further down the rabbit hole that is dealing drugs. With every flash back you feel more compassion and sympathy towards these jail birds, they didn’t purposefully decide to take the road less traveled, rather they were pushed and you’re forced to reserve your judgement on the how, why, and what. To add to that, I would say that this may be one of the first hour-long drama’s that actually allows its minority characters to have rich, complex story lines and back stories. This show could have easily stepped over the line into stereotypes and generalizations without giving nuance to any of the characters but instead it’s thoughtful and reflective outlook on lesbians, African-American, Hispanics, Christians, and Russians make it a show much more fitting for the 21st century.
What I hated…
Anything and everything that has to do with the lead character. She is not endearing, funny, nor dramatic enough to really pull my attention for longer than ten minutes. In fact, not to spoil it or anything, her love triangle between her fiance and in-jail lesbian lover is so boring I would fast forward through their scenes just to get back to the side characters story-lines. I can’t decide if it’s the casting or if it’s just that boring.. . I don’t know but I feel like there is general room for improvement in the second season… maybe.. I mean I’m not a huge fan of Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon in any capacity so maybe that’s it. Taylor Schilling, previously of Mercy, where she played an Iraq war Veteran nurse in yet ANOTHER love triangle, is adequate in this role but not substantive. Do I think they could improve on her story line past her love life, yes. Do I think her story lines will ever be as interesting and layered as her co-stars are, no, but I’ll keep watching anyways.
I mean, who doesn’t love a soapy prison drama with lots of lesbian love scenes and enough racial tension to fill a stadium. It’s not as dry or witty as its Weeds counter part but it is funny and at times chilling to watch what these women go through when forced to accept a life behind bars. Plus with an already confirmed second season you won’t be getting too invested without knowing if they’ll be some closure for your favorite characters down the road. Besides, Candy Crush can only go on so long and the second season of House of Cards feels like it’s
never coming the fuck back too far away.