TAYLOR SCHILLING 370.
(photo credit: collider.com)
When HBO launched its own original content in the mid-1990s, the network was
praised for its raw, innovative and cutting- edge lineup. Critics heralded The
Larry Sanders Show, Sex and the City and The Sopranos for reinventing the
landscape of network television.
Now, 15 years later, Netflix – the
online videostreaming company – has found itself in a similar position but has
gone one step further. With the debut of its remake of the BBC miniseries House
of Cards, Hemlock Grove and the resurrection of the cult hit Arrested
Development (which, combined, snagged 14 Emmy nominations earlier this month),
Netflix has found itself at the forefront of redefining how viewers watch
Its newest offering, Orange Is the New Black, continues to
demonstrate to its competitors that it is a force to be reckoned with in the
world of original programming.
The show tells the story of Piper Chapman,
whose past comes back to haunt her when she is convicted for smuggling money for
her drugdealing girlfriend – a crime she committed a decade ago.
ways, creator Jenji Kohan (of Weeds fame) repeats much of what pop culture has
taught us about prison: Nothing is free. The food is horrible. And rape
scenes are inevitable.
But in her depiction of this all-women’s prison,
Kohan goes beyond the stereotype and actually brings something unique to the
table. Underneath the many harrowing scenes where characters harass, assault and
insult each other lies an unexpected degree of warmth and empathy among the
Through flashbacks, the audience gradually learns the story of
each inmate and discovers the reasons for a character’s dead eyes, tight-lipped
smile or perpetual grimace.
As for the acting, relative newcomer Taylor
Schilling, with her doe eyes and flawless white porcelain teeth, is a good fit
for playing a woman who must come to terms with her new stark
And how nice it is to see Jason Biggs – a relic from the
seemingly endless and banal teen comedies of the 1990s – step back into the
spotlight as Chapman’s dutifully loyal fiancé eagerly waiting for her
The real revelation, though, is Laura Prepon who plays Alex
Vouse, the girlfriend whom Chapman believes is responsible for incriminating
her. Last remembered for sporting fiery red hair as Donna Pinciotti in That ’70s
Show, Prepon has taken on a decidedly more mature and nuanced
Initially we learn of Vouse through Chapman’s recollection of her
past. During these memories, Vouse comes across as a manipulative seductress who
snared Chapman into doing her bidding.
Now incarcerated in the same
prison as Chapman, that narrative changes quickly when it becomes clear that
beneath Vouse’s façade of a hard-nosed criminal lies a woman with a soft, even
Some may call Orange Is the New Black a feminist
interpretation of the prison story. And, in many ways, it is. It features a cast
of women who through ignorance, poverty and bad luck have made poor life
decisions and are now paying a heavy price. However, there is never a moment
where a character asks for pity or places blame elsewhere. Each character is
fiercely independent and finds her own unique way to navigate her intricate and
In the first episode, Chapman meets with her male
counselor, who gives her a run-down of what to expect for the duration of her
sentence and attempts to downplay her worst fears about prison.
isn’t Oz,” he says, referring to HBO’s
wildly popular show about male
This is true. Orange Is the New Black is not Oz. But with its
surreal, dark and, at times, funny portrayal of incarceration, the viewers
certainly don’t feel like they are in Kansas anymore, either.
the New Black can be seen on HOT 3
and HOT VOD