Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why You’re Not Watching Orange is the New Black (But You Should Be!)

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of all things orange, so it might surprise you that I’ve only just now started watching Orange is the New Black.  I’m not sure what exactly triggered it, but something about a commercial or teaser drew me in.  I partially blame the direction the world is going in, not as a bad thing, but with people being more open with different types of people in every way possible, a show that displays that should be lauded and not shunned.

Netflix Subscription

This was the first turnoff for me.  I pay way too much to DirecTV right now and I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around the idea of paying for more TV.  I mean, how much TV can one person watch?  But let’s be honest, how many of those additional channels do I even watch?  Since I’m not an HBO junkie, I can clear that off my list and the rest of the movie channels really just regurgitate the same movies over and over again.  With Netflix, you get a wider variety of movies to choose from.  I already saw The Babadook (a horror movie) that hasn’t been on any of the movie channels and added a few more items to my Watch List.  For $9 a month (for the middle tier), that’s $108 a year for a few more channels and I can cut about $90 per month when I get rid of the movie channels.  Yes, that math computes.

Gratuitous Scenes

Once you’ve gotten past the cost (and you can free trial the first month), the next thing I feel like people get turned off by certain types of scenes.  I’m not going to sugar coat this in anyway, because I never would, there are a fair amount of Lebanese scenes (my Golden Girls code word).  The main storyline, for the first season centers around protagonist Piper(Taylor Schilling) going back to jail because her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon) was a drug dealer that got caught and may have fingered her as an accomplice.  At the same time, Piper is engaged to Larry (Jason Biggs).  There is a bit of both straight and not-straight storylines and characters and if that’s something that makes you uncomfortable, I can understand your reluctance.  At the same time, I feel like opening your mind to new ideas isn’t a bad thing.  I challenge anyone who watches the show not to root for, to some degree, the rekindling of the relationship between Piper and Alex.


Let’s face it, the show is set in prison.  But it isn’t Oz.  I feel like Mean Girls is kind of a good reference point for the concept.  Even the characters cite how prison is a lot like high school with cliques and gossip.  Everyone knows everyone else’s business.  There are no secrets because everyone is living on top of each other (not literally).  There are both uplifting and devastating moments throughout the three seasons.  The show is seen, at first, through Piper’s eyes and as an upper-class, affluent person, the challenges she faces are very realistic.  The fact that she insults the cook on the very first day and has to find a way out of it or she won’t get fed is a situation that is both dire and still somehow amusing at the same time.

There are so many instances where we are reminded how bad choices lead to consequences.  The backstories for each character are fleshed out, some more than others, and there is a character for everyone.
The reason you should be watching:


This is where diversity really hits a stride for OITNB.  I have yet to see a group not well represented, except perhaps for men, who are really painted one-dimensionally for large chunks of the story.  The main story, and the first season, serve mostly to introduce the audience to the prison and go through the ups and downs with Piper.  Throughout the course of the first season, there are a variety of characters introduced and over time, more is revealed.  No matter what race you are (save Indian, like me, no Indians in jail), there seems to be some general representation. The show even pokes fun at this through an appointed council that is basically populated by a representative from each group: White, Black, Latino, Golden Girls and Other.  If you look past the main white cast, the talent spills over with everyone else.  Uzo Aduba won an Emmy for her performance from the first season, and there were a lot of other nominees besides her.


I wish I could put into words what kept me coming back, but I can’t.  At the same time, I’m already re-watching the entire series, trying to pick up on things I might have missed.  The show is rife full of pop culture references, mostly though Tastee and her love for Harry Potter and reading.  If that doesn’t do it for you, there is a story with a Latino family and an impregnated inmate, something straight out of a soap opera.  The overarching villains for seasons one and two are memorable, but more so as we watch the evolution of season one’s Pennsatucky grow increasingly sympathetic as the seasons wear on.  Her character evolution is one of the starker ones, next to Piper’s fall into darkness.


The idea of prison is terrifying, at least to me, you might not be phased by it.  The fact that every single person incarcerated in the show, at one point or another, admits to doing something wrong to end up there, but at the same time finds solace from others there as well is what is fascinating.  Even if the groups seem separated (white, black, other, old), the groups are still mixed and the mixing creates for some very compelling viewing.  When Red loses the kitchen in season 2 and is forced to join the old people table, the viewer sees people who might be forgotten by most, but can still contribute.


I probably have a lot more blogs in me on this subject, but this is really scratching the surface.  A lot of fans have mixed feelings about season three being slightly aimless, as opposed to the conventional narrative in the first two seasons, but I’d argue the third season ties it all together, especially if you’re just now watching the show.  A lot of loose ends are tied together and while some parts were slower than others, I still watched it without stop and could keep watching it.

Is like: Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

On: Whenever you feel like watching – no waiting!

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