Sunday, July 21, 2013

Television Review: Orange is the New Black, A Netflix Original

 If you like television and you like interesting characters, then I highly suggest checking out Netflix's original series, Orange is the New Black.  This serious is definitely for a mature audience and not for the kids or the easily offended.

Orange is the New Black (OitNB) is a comedic drama set in a federal woman's prison. It features a heavy dose of dark comedy, drama and absurdity.  There is violence, nudity and language that makes it a show that is definitely TV-MA.

Netflix's description of the show:
"Orange is the New Black" follows engaged Brooklynite Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), whose decade-old relationship with drug-runner Alex (Laura Prepon) results in her arrest and 15-month long detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper must trade her comfortable New York life with fiance Larry (Jason Biggs) for an orange prison jumpsuit and a baffling prison culture where she is forced to question everything she believes and form unexpected new alliances with a group of eccentric and outspoken inmates. The series' diverse ensemble also includes Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Pablo Schreiber, Danielle Brooks, Laverne Cox and Taryn Manning.

The show was created and produced by Jenji Kohan (Weeds) and is based on a memoir by the same title by author Piper Kerman.  With directors Michael Trim, Andrew McCarthy, and Matthew Penn and writers Piper Kerman, Jenji Kohan, Sian Heder, Sara Hess, Nick Jones, Lauren Morelli, and Marco Ramirez. It  is interesting to note that OitNB is a very female heavy writers room, with the show runner and five of the seven writers being females.

OitNB is a joint effort from Netflix and Lionsgate Television and features a 13 episode first season.  Like all of the Netflix originals so far, an entire seasons worth of episodes is added to Netflix's instant streaming services at the same time.  This is perfect for binge watching.  OitNB has already been picked up for a second season to debut in 2014 and production on the new episodes starts this summer.

The 13-episode first season of OitNB introduces follows a fairly linear plot where we are introduced to Piper, her family and friends and follow her as she enters prison and slowly learns how to survive as she navigates a land mine field of inmates, guards and prison staff. Without abandoning the season long arc the show makes extensive use of flashbacks to further the story along. While Piper is the focal character of the series, some episodes also focus on other inmates and showing us pieces of these women's lives before they entered prison.

Taylor Schilling stars as Piper and gives a very good performance with wide emotional swings throughout the series.  Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)  as Red chews up scenery as the prison's no-nonsense inmate head chef. OitNB is like some twisted mash-up of Survivor, Mean Girls and Supertroopers. The correctional officers are just as crazy as the inmates and it seems like everyone is just trying to figure out how to survive in the environment of this prison.  The prisoners break into factions which often clash and sometimes intersect in curious ways and the plot takes a twist when Piper discovers that her former lover and the woman she believes gave her name to the Feds, Alex played by Lauro Prepon (That 70's Show) is an inmate in the same prison.  In Piper's new prison home every action and every word is under a microscope and has a disproportionate effect on how others in the prison view and treat her.  Piper may have thought she was prepared for the realities of a 15-month sentence, but the emotional strain of prison life quickly changes everything.

OitNB does a very good job of playing emotional notes, hope and small moments of joy occasionally burst through what is often a dour and depressing reality.  There is a strong sense of inevitability with some of the characters but it won't stop you for rooting for some of them to break the cycles of choices that leads them to their fates.

It is extremely well written and compelling storytelling with a large ensemble cast. While the content of the series won't appeal to everyone, the characters are so diverse and interestingly crafted that it becomes hard to turn the show off.

SOURCE: Netflix, IMDB 

No comments:

Post a Comment