I’m a big fan of the Netflix Original Series movement. I was completely addicted to House of Cards in the spring and I enjoyed the experimental fourth season of Arrested Development in May. So when Tom and Lorenzo, The New York Times of entertainment blogs, demanded everyone start watching the latest from Netflix, Orange is the New Black, I knew I had to get on it.
And it doesn’t hurt that all the online buzz around this show has been phenomenal since its premiere two weeks ago.
Like all Netflix original content, the first season of OITNB was released all at once, which makes it a prime target for binge watching. The reason Netflix series work is because people already used the online streaming service to watch quality shows from AMC, HBO, and Showtime. If a show really grabs you, you can end up watching three or more episodes in a sitting, which is exactly the philosophy of Netflix. I just finished the pilot today, and I’m intrigued enough to commit to a slow binge of OITNB.
Orange is the New Black is the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a blond WASP sent to prison for 15 months for that one time she carried money in a suitcase for her drug dealer girlfriend (Laura Prepon, or Donna from That 70’s Show) 10 years ago. She’s leaving behind a fiance (Jason Biggs) and a fancy line of soaps that was about to go into Barney’s (“It’s a nice store”). And in the first episode, she adapts to this new situation about as well as you would expect a blond WASP to do.
Pilots are tricky because they have to get a lot of exposition across without boring a viewer. “I Wasn’t Ready,” the first episode of OITNB does a lot of setup through flashbacks, and in some ways, you get nervous that this show could end up being one big women’s prison cliche. White girl goes into prison and learns about herself or becomes more accepting of other people.
But I get the feeling–and I’ve heard through the grapevine–that Orange is the New Black is going to be way bigger than that. For one, the pilot introduces a great cast of other characters besides Piper and has the potential to explore a wide range of perspectives.
Judging the pilot as a self-contained episode, its strength mostly comes from that potential, but there’s also an awesomely dark and inappropriate sense of humor to it. A lot of it originates with Nicky (Natasha Lyonne of American Pie), who in one scene asks Piper if she’s a lesbian.
“Or you prefer pipe, as your name suggests? I’m feeling some Sapphic vibes coming off you.”
I can always get into a show with a wisecracking chick. And with this show, there might be quite a few of them.