Thursday, August 8, 2013

ORANGE is the new BLACK

ORANGE is the new BLACK is yet another series where we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy — or gal in this case.  Though not as extreme as a seemingly mild-mannered serial killer (Dexter), as conniving as a soft-spoken high-school teacher turned drug lord (Breaking Bad), as treacherous as a military hero who is working with the enemy (Homeland) nor as repugnant as a silky smooth politician whose smile masks the most reprehensible behavior (House of Cards), this "heroine," Piper Chapman suddenly finds her wild and crazy past catching up with her in a stop-in-your-tracks way.  

In this based-on-true-events story, Chapman's a white, upper-middle-class, engaged-to-be married, Smith-educated graduate who finds herself heading for federal prison on a drug charge from an action in her past.  Everything we see points to the fact that this is someone who doesn't belong in an orange jumpsuit.  Because she looks like us.  

ORANGE is the new BLACK features yet another anti-hero, but here's what I think is different
  • We see a character who is bi-sexual and, despite the complications, is fairly comfortable with that orientation. 
  • We see prison life from the inside — not the frightening horror stories of a Scared Straight or Oz but the daily, mundane frustrating prison routine filled with injustices big and small and constant reminders of missing freedoms — big and small.  
  • We see the backstory of all Chapman's sister prisoners — each of these ladies (and the prison staff) could be a series of their own. Chapman is atypical. (Another small loss is your first name because in prison you go by your last name.) 
Piper's got a blindsided fiancé living life without her on the outside, and further complicating her mess on the inside is that she's locked up with the ex-girlfriend who fingered her for being a drug-runner. There's lots more going on in the show but suffice to say, through the thirteen episodes that are available on Netflix, Piper is doing her best to hang on to her sanity in an environment filled with unknowns that doesn't follow any of the rules she's come to take for granted in her privileged world. 

Telling the stories of Piper (and her band of widely diverse inmates) through flashbacks of life before prisonmakes these characters human and allows us to feel empathy for them — even prods us to identify with her.  But Season One ended on a disturbing note as the weight of being locked behind bars permeates Piper's psyche and explodes with a vengeance.

Guess I'll have to stayed tune.


  1. I love your television and other popular media reviews! But, when I clicked on the link for Orange is the New Black, the Netflix site told me they were experiencing technical difficulties and I should try again later. You may want to stagger notices of your blog entries so that your readership doesn't end up inadvertently crashing the websites you mention. ;-)

  2. Yeah, this series was an eye-opener for me too. It is probably too light and comedic to be labeled 'realistic drama', but it does provide a glimpse into another world that I found interesting. I found Piper's old girlfriend/lover, Alex, the most compelling character. I'll definitely be tuning in for the next season. Scott

  3. Just curious -- is this show ONLY available via Netfix "streaming"? I have Netflix (not streaming though -- only DVDs through the mail)... LL

    1. I'm not sure LL and since I ONLY get streaming, I can't tell.