Orange Is The New Black is the newest original series from on-demand titans Netflix. The show, which follows the mediocre success of original series Hemlock Grove, shows early promise. The show follows the life of Piper Chapman, a suburban Caucasian woman who gets indicted for laundering drug money and is sentenced to fifteen months in federal penitentiary. Along the way she must learn how to survive in prison, changing along the way and meeting new friends.
First let’s just chat a minute about how cool these original series are.
Joe: I think Netflix really hit the nail on the head with its choices so far; House of Cards was ridiculously fantastic. Kevin Spacey plays a helluva vindictive politician and the cast surrounding him made the show that much better, definitely better than 80% of cable and network television. On the flipside however, Hemlock Grove did not work. Of course it was a hit with a lot of people- mostly paranormal and vampire fans- but there was nothing about the show that kept my attention. I think this resurgence of on-demand programming is healthy for the industry. Recently we saw Amazon create a plethora of new shows and let the public decide which was worth a full series by watching and voting. This kind of democracy in television is what is going to help internet based mediums succeed, while cutting the cord to the money sucking corporations like Comcast and satellite companies.
Nate: We are witnessing one of the biggest innovations in television history. Netflix completely changed the game when they came on the scene back in 2007 with their online streaming capabilities. Since then, broadcast television hasn’t been the same. As much as I hate to see cable and satellite providers get thrown to the wayside, I love that companies are taking full advantage of this relatively new technology. Notice how I said “new technology” and not “new idea”. This revolution reminds me a lot of the subscription service battle that took place years ago between HBO, Showtime, Starz/Encore, etc. Obviously this time it’s online, but it’s essentially the same premise as before. I think it’s great.
That being said, did Orange is the New Black meet expectations?
Joe: So far it has. (I’m through episode five). I am a long time Weeds fan, so it’s cool to see Jenji back in television already after such a short time since Weeds ended. Even though there were a lot of people who didn’t enjoy Weeds all the way through, I think it was a completely enjoyable half hour dramedy. Like Weeds, I think OITNB will be successful because of Jenji, but also because of the ridiculously stellar array of actress and characters present.
Nate: It has definitely met mine. I didn’t really know what to think. I’m not wild about Weeds, but I decided to give Jenji Kohan another chance. The reason for my graciousness is because I think that it’s important to have shows like this and Weeds; shows with strong female characters, and in this case, an all female cast. I don’t necessarily agree with how Kohan has his lead characters behave all of the time, but I appreciate what she is doing.
What was your favorite part of the pilot episode?
Joe: I think it was vitally important that we found out what Piper was being put in prison for. While it might have worked okay to drag it out for a few episodes, it really just makes for a more enjoyable show if its a drama and not a mystery. Knowing what Piper did puts the viewer more in her shoes and makes the show into what it’s supposed to be: the story of how a woman, who has never been in any trouble, is going to survive prison. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the large amount of fun and interesting characters. The LA Times said this is the best ensemble of female characters and actresses they’ve seen and I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing.
Nate: Finally seeing Laura Prepon naked.
Joe: Oh sweet Donna boobies. But really is that all?
Nate: [Laughs] No no no. I really liked the first episode because of Piper. Taylor Schilling is outstanding. Her emotions, both sad and dumbfounded are absolutely spot on. Jason Biggs on the other hand, for me, is the worst part of the show. It was hard to believe that they were a couple in the beginning. Of course their relationship started to grow on me towards the end of the episode, but I just wasn’t into it. And I hate to be a buzzkill, because the plot is fantastic and I can’t wait to see what happens next, but Jason Biggs is such a dry actor. Every other aspect of the show is flawless.
Since the series is based off a memoir that runs about 350 pages, do you have any reservations for them running out of material or jumping the shark? Note: the show was renewed for a second season already before the premiere.
Joe: Honestly I’m not really concerned. Jenji Kohan took Weeds a long ways in its run. Sure it could have, and probably should have, ended before it’s eighth season, but it was still an extremely enjoyable show. Given its limited amount of source material I’m expecting the writers to be throwing plots in that weren’t included in the books; maybe things that didn’t happen or things that Kerman never documented when she was writing the book. Either way, upon viewing this first episode, I have high expectations for this series, and have little doubt that the second season will falter.
Nate: No, I’m not concerned at all. I love the idea of using an author’s work and expanding on it, so I’m excited to see where Jenji takes it. That’s the beauty of art. One person sees something one way, while another sees something completely different. We’ll see how it goes.
Orange is the New Black can be seen on Netflix