I am decidedly not a binge watcher. But after viewing the first episode of Netflix’s new series Orange is the New Black, that may change. I can’t wait to watch more.
From the deliciously twisted mind of Weeds creator Jenji Kohan and based on a real-life memoir, Orange is the New Black tells the story of pretty, sheltered Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who is sent to prison for 15 months for her limited participation in a drug smuggling ring ten years earlier. Piper, now engaged to nice Jewish boy Larry (Jason Biggs), had gotten involved in the criminal activity because of her girlfriend Alex (That 70’s Show‘s Laura Prepon). Upon entering prison she encounters a whole host of personalities, including, amongst others, a junkie lesbian (Nathasha Lyonne) and a Russian chef (Kate Mulgrew).
That brief description does almost no justice to the fantastic pilot episode. Expertly balancing satire, character development, and social commentary on race, gender, class and sexuality, the first installment of Orange is the New Black hooked me right from the get-go. There is real comedy, and there is also real human emotion. All different types of women are represented, but somehow none feel like stereotypes. The mileu is evocative and somewhat scary — it’s not, as one character says, “like Oz,” but it is also unmistakably prison, where the sense of claustrophobia and tension that could ignite at the drop of a hat is palpable.
The casting is also spot-on. Schilling is perfection as naive, scared Piper; Prepon has just the right amount of charm and menace to be believably seductive as Alex; and Biggs breaks your heart as the loyal and patient Larry. I can’t wait to see how each of the women in prison continue to develop — after the first episode I’m particularly intrigued by Lyonne’s Nichols and Yael Stone’s Morello.
I’ve been dubious of Netflix as an original content provider, but if this is the kind of the show they plan on producing, I say keep on keepin’ on. Now excuse me while I go watch episode 2…
Have you started watching Orange is the New Black yet? Let me know what you think!
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