‘Weeds’ creator goes ‘Orange’

A past crime surfaces in Jenji Kohan’s comedy-drama series ‘Orange Is the New Black’.

July 10, 2013 13:05
3 minute read.
‘Orange Is the New Black’

‘Orange Is the New Black’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

If you were addicted to Weeds, the Showtime series about the exploits of Nancy Botwin (Mary- Louise Parker), a suburban mom turned pot dealer, you will certainly be curious about the latest show by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, Orange Is the New Black, which premieres on HOT 3 and HOT VOD later this month.

Like the wildly successful Netflix series House of Cards (a remake of a British series), all the episodes of Orange Is the New Black were released in the US on a single day, July 11. People could buy and watch a single episode a week or buy them all and watch them one after another.

This innovative way of producing and selling television is one of the first and most sensible responses by the television industry to the widespread phenomenon of people downloading and watching episodes of TV shows whenever it suits them. It paid off for Netflix with House of Cards, which was very popular, received rave reviews and has already been renewed for a second season.

Kohan’s Orange received so much buzz even before its release that it has already been renewed for a second season. Based on a best-selling memoir, it tells the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), an upscale New York woman engaged to a nice guy (Jason Biggs). Piper suddenly learns she must go to prison to serve a sentence for a crime she committed years before. When she was just out of college, she smuggled drug money for her lesbian lover, and law enforcement has just caught up with her.

In the first episode, she has to tell both her fiancé and her very proper family that she has to start serving her sentence. If you think it sounds like the Gilmore girls go to jail, you wouldn’t be far off.

It’s obvious that this isn’t the most original concept in history, but based on reviews and clips, it seems that Kohan has done a good job. As in Weeds, her strong suit is casting. The lead role of Piper is played by Taylor Schilling, a name that won’t mean anything to you unless you caught the only season of Mercy, a series about three nurses in a hospital in a working-class part of New Jersey. Schilling starred as Veronica, a tough nurse; and as clichéd as some of the writing might have been, she was wonderful and made the show worth watching. I was extremely pleased to see that she has another starring role here, and if anyone can bring this story to life (and make it funny), it’s Schilling. She had a small role in Argo – she was Ben Affleck’s estranged wife – but all she did there was hug him. It’s not surprising that once again she has found a meatier role on television. Kate Mulgrew and Natasha Lyonne are two of the other acting standouts in Orange.

There are a number of new shows set to hit network TV in the fall, and one of the most anticipated is The Goldbergs, which will be shown on Tuesday nights on ABC in the US and most likely will be picked up by one of the Israeli networks soon after.

Created by Adam Goldberg, who wrote the popular series Breaking In, The Goldbergs is a kind of Jewish version of Modern Family, set in the 1980s. It focuses on a suburban family with three kids, one of whom is named Adam, and captures the family’s life on video – presumably a version of the younger Goldberg himself. The parents are played by Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids) and Jeff Garlin (Arrested Development), while George Segal stars as the slightly demented grandfather. It looks broad and energetic – but will it be funny? We’ll have to wait and see.

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