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Season One Review: Orange Is The New Black

Netflix has done it again. They already had success with their critically-acclaimed show ‘House of Cards’, and now it appears that they have another hit on their hands. On July 11, 2013 Netflix released ‘Orange is the New Black’ to their subscribers and showed that they were going to be more than a one-trick pony. By the way, with online-based shows when is the proper time for a season review? I just recently found the time to binge-watch this season some six months after it released. Nevertheless I enjoyed what I saw and I am looking forward to watching season two in a similar fashion. Here’s a quick synopsis of the show…

[adinserter block=”1″]The story of Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money for her drug-dealing girlfriend. –

Show creator Jenji Kohan (also the creator of the Showtime hit ‘Weeds’) has a knack for developing interestingly flawed female-lead characters on television. The main character Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) only differs from ‘Weeds’ centerpiece Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) by an absence of a plastic cup of ice coffee (true ‘Weeds’ fans will understand that analogy). Both women have done illegal acts, yet we the audience root for them to make it, despite their defects. Chapman is a naïve, self-righteous, part-time lesbian who will be a citizen of a federal prison for at least 15 months.

In the beginning Chapman has a doting fiancée, loving sister/business partner, annoying mother, and an ex-girlfriend who she absolutely loathes. By the end of the initial season her engagement was apparently over, her family relationships were strained, and the audience wasn’t really sure what to make of the affiliation with her ex-girlfriend.

These entire casts of characters are terrific. They are very reminiscent of the great HBO show ‘OZ’ in their complex simplicity. Everyone has jobs, nicknames, territories, and hobbies… they are the All-American prison band of misfits. From Taystee (Danielle Brooks) to Red (Kate Mulgrew) everyone was entertaining and necessary. It can sometimes be easier to add unnecessary characters to an ensemble, but everyone served a purpose and added value to the production. When is the last time anyone has seen a funnier crazy person than “Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba)?” Looking at Aduba’s IMDB picture alone gives me an appreciation of work on this show.

What was with all of the male characters on this show? This cannot be how all male authority figures at women’s prisons act can it? Correctional Officer Bennett (Matt McGorry) impregnated inmate Dayanara (Dascha Polanco). Correctional Officer ‘Pornstache’ Mendez is sneaking drugs into the prison, having sex with inmates (including Dayanara who he thinks he is in love with), and is an all-around creep. Social worker Healy (Michael Harney) tops them all. He’s so homophobic it’s sickening. What’s with his mail-order bride? How foolish is it for him to think he can make a woman 20 years his junior into June Cleaver? Also, his season-long mind game he played with Chapman ended with her possibly killing Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning).

[adinserter block=”2″]I understand Chapman being a pain in Healy’s butt, but setting her up to beat Pennsatucky to a pulp was unnecessary. It was a culmination of frustration for Chapman that finally came to a head. How will this change her current circumstance? Is Pennsatucky dead or alive? Will she somehow have to serve more time? Can she fix her broken relationship with Larry? We will have to wait until season two is released (probably late spring-early summer) to answer these questions. Anyone who hasn’t seen this show should do themselves a favor and invest in a Netflix account.

Jack Gotta
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackGotta


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