Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tune In or Tune Out:Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Orange is the New Black
Created by: Jenji Kohan (Weeds)
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Natasha Lyonne, Kate Mulgrew, and Jason Biggs

Netflix is at it again, this is their fourth original series, and this ranks as another creative success, so far. I am about four episodes in, and I feel as though this series hits all the right elements.  Before I put the cart before the horse, let's talk about Netflix, and then get into the series, and what makes this show work.

Some people are on board with the Netflix model, while others view this "binge" watching as counter intuitive to the water cooler aspect of television.  With Arrested Development, I binge watched, and wish I had stretch out the episodes a little longer.  I was so excited for the show to be back, and just needed to watch and watch and watch.  Arrested Development is a show I can watch over and over again, most of the shows fans do this.  With House of Cards I watched the series within a week or two week span, I paced myself a little better, but the pacing of the show kept me wanting to go back for more, and I could when I wanted.  The subject matter, and emotional intensity of Orange is the New Black has created a different pace for me.

Orange is about Piper Chapman (Schilling) is former wildling turned suburbanite who is engaged to her fiance Larry (Biggs), runs her own business, shops at Whole Foods, and lives in the world of white privilege.  Before her life with Larry, Piper was in a relationship with Alex (Prepon) who ended up being a drug smuggler.  Alex pulled Piper into her world, and this eventually caught up with Piper as the show follows her in jail interacting with her fellow inmates, and through flashbacks of her own life.

The show works on so many levels, Kohan who created Weeds, imbibes her snark, but also lays on the emotional weight of what prison is like for Piper, who is much like Nancy Botwin.  Schilling is great as Piper; she is terrific with her naivete, and sarcasm, but sells the dramatic moments well.  The true strength in this show is that this is a great ensemble, and explores the other inmates just as well.  In the first few episdoes the show explores heavy concepts like race, and gender identity well.  I almost cried in episode three as they explored gender identity, beings transgender, and the changes that occur.  Don't get me wrong this show is not all drama, while it is a drama with hilarious undertones. Red (Mulgrew) and Nicky (Lyonne) are two of the best characters on the show, and they have some of the best lines.

This show explores being a women better than many shows I have seen on television, most of the characters are true to form, fleshed out characters.  While these women are all in prison that takes nothing away from the identity they have developed, and you see this development within the flashbacks.  I love that this show is not afraid to show men as secondary, and also within their piggish nature.  Some will argue this is a one sided representation, while I argue, that things can't always be about the men!  Kohan has created yet another representation which shows so many layers within female characters.

Back to Netflix.  Does their model work?  I have talked to a lot of people who powered through this show the way I did with House of Cards.  I think there are flaws, but I disagree that this eliminates the buzz factor.  More and more people are signing up for Netflix, and more people are starting to watch their shows including this one because they have heard great things.  I like Netflix's "choose your own adventure" viewing style, and I think it fits with this new generations viewing patterns.  This show is is a winner!

Tune In!  Be careful you don't get shanked

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