You Need To Be Watching Orange Is The New Black

You know that friend you have, whom you’ve tried to convince to finally get into “Mad Men” but doesn’t start watching until the last season? Don’t be that friend.

Sally Draper, right before she said “You make me sick,” judging you.

Summer TV is a lot of things: funny, fresh, anticipated and, sometimes, it’s just what you have to watch in the meantime, before “Breaking Bad” returns. Some shows get more credit than others, but if you’re not watching “Orange Is the New Black,” you’re missing out on one of TV’s most original new shows. But wait, there’s more! It’s not even on cable. It’s on Netflix (aka the answer to your binge-watching prayers).

The show hasn’t even been out for a month, but it’s already gaining a devout fan base and critical praise. When I first heard about the show, I dismissed it, just like I did “House of Cards,” which is probably great, but I’ll never know (Just kidding, I’ll probably get to it during the worst possible time ever, like finals weeks.). It wasn’t until some of my favorite bloggers were plugging this show so hard, you’d swear Netflix bought them a new kitchen. Turns out, they just like TV as much as I do, and I decided to be good and evenly space out the season. Let’s be real, though, I’m not as hardcore as the recappers at Vulture, who are currently reviewing Season One in weekly installments. Ugh, this is Netflix we’re talking about. There’s no such thing as self control when you see the main character get into a bit of a lesbian pickle with another inmate (talk about mixed signals). It’s on to the next one, for me.

Despite what you may think, I’m really excited to click through to another episode. Actually, I don’t think about it at all. It’s automatic.

So even though “evenly-spaced-out” really means three days in my world, I don’t regret binge-watching it all, because Netflix already renewed “Orange Is the New Black” for a second season.

Without delving into spoilers, the show is about Piper Chapman, a self-proclaimed “nice white lady,” who committed a non-violent crime ten years ago with her then-partner, an international heroin smuggler. In a “past-catches-up-with-you” type plot progression, Piper gets sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison, where she’s insulted by being called Taylor Swift. This hurts her.

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman on “Orange Is the New Black.”

The show’s foundation seems predictable: a sitcom about a WASP woman learning the ins and outs of prison life while encountering prison archetypes: the butch lesbians, crazed black women, ghetto-white girls, saucy Latinas, etc. The show is all of this, and then it’s not. It’s incredibly self aware, even making jokes through Piper’s fiancé, Larry, played by Jason Biggs, and “American Pie.”

The show presents all these caged-women archetypes, and refreshingly gives them room to grow beyond their label. Alongside Piper’s story, every episode shows flashbacks of other inmate’s lives before prison. The message is quick and to the point: there’s more to women than meets the eye. That goes for people, in general, too, like Larry who ends up fighting conflicting feelings of anger, care and apathy towards Piper and the situation, when he’s supposed to be playing the supportive husband. But “Orange Is the New Black” holds a special place for women. Stories like these, with such complexity and empathy, don’t normally get shared on television. Besides being funny and suspenseful, Jenji Kohan (“Weeds”), created a show that manages to tell diverse stories of all types of women with sincerity. I’m glad this doesn’t even remotely resemble some Lifetime special.

The writing on the show is fantastic. Kohan continues to excel in dark humor, but it’s not all dark. Some of it’s just funny, like Bigg’s character, Larry, going through a writer’s block and believing he’s come across something truly great with his article on “edging” (Look it up.). The show recognizes the size of its cast and my attention span of a goldfish and does me (and you all, too, I guess) a favor by simply naming some characters “Pornstache,” “Yoga Jones” and “Crazy Eyes.” I always know what inter-prison drama is going on – unless they bring out names like “Tricia,” then I’m wondering if we’re talking about “Neck Tattoo,” or “Weave Lady” (the last two were totally made up but all names before are legit.)

All stories line up perfectly to provide a great ending to an unexpectedly great new show.

Stop trying to find an intellectual foreign film on your Netflix queue to impress your friends. Every one will just think you have a stick up your ass. Pick “Orange Is the New Black” and be that friend, who knows what’s up.




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Author: Claudia Marina View all posts by
Journalism student at the University of Florida. Sally Draper is my spirit animal. I love writing about TV and how it affects culture. Occasionally I watch bad TV, but reviews make it better.

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