The entire first season of Jenji Kohen’s Orange Is the New Black, which follows Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) life as she spends a year in prison, became available on Netflix Instant last Thursday. THANK GOODNESS! Without it we’d be left only to sigh and watch Whodunnit?, and to attempt to keep our hopes up for the group of townies, +Barbie, +the ladies and their daughter who were just driving through on their way to– DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!, trapped Under the Dome. (Or I guess we could read a book or travel to a lake or someplace, just kidding. GIVE US TV!) Orange Is the New Black offers a bit of relief from the summer TV drought in a way that was, I WILL ADMIT, surprising to me. I started watching OITNB yesterday only after seeking other options and coming up empty, and only after being encouraged by everyone on Twitter taking time out of tweeting their outrage in order to tweet about how great the series is. I wasn’t a big Weeds fan, and the idea of another Jenji Kohen series about a pretty young lady paying for her mistakes in legality didn’t immediately grab me, but what kept me returning to Orange Is the New Black (I watched three episodes before forcing myself to RELAX) was the life that surrounds Chapman in prison. Her fellow inmates are compelling, funny, full characters whose stories are told in flashback (like Chapman’s is) as the episodes unfold. Their lives outside and relationships inside would be enough to hold a series, even without the binding element of Chapman’s story! (Though, that isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the lead, as well – Taylor Schilling is very good in this!) (Jason Biggs is also good in it!) It is a good show, the end. Basically. Are you watching it? Are you pacing yourself? Have you finished already, and now you’re back in the same no-good-TV spot you were before you began? Why did you do that to yourself?!

Comments (20)
  1. As I was reading this I was thinking “Yes, I will try this show out soon” until I got to two fateful words, those words being Jason and Biggs.

    • I, like you, had seen Jason Biggs name and was less than enthused because of it. I decided to give the show a shot anyway. Nine episodes later I can safely say I officially am a huge fan of the show. It is superb and filled with fully realized, fascinating characters all played wonderfully by the actors…even Jason Biggs.

  2. Unlike a certain someone, I was VERY into Weeds, so I’m excited to watch this. However, I decided to be a human and go outside and read a book and gaze at some sweet baby ducks being fed by children. Why are all these Netflix shows being released in the summer when I don’t want to be inside? Hey, Netflix, release your crap during the winter when I’m depressed and can’t get up the energy to put on the nine layers of clothing it takes to take out the trash.

    • I miss Weeds! I’m waiting for this show to go that direction. It’ll be about the 4th season, when Piper gets out of jail, and her life takes all sorts of twists and turns and really loses its original focus, and also there’s someone she was in jail with who’s still following her around for no apparent reason.

  3. I haven’t watched it yet. On the premise alone, I’m not totally excited about it, but I sort of feel like “oh because it’s netflix I’ll watch it” which is silly because Hemlock Grove (barf). I guess I have to wait and see what other people say because I believe you that it’s good and stuff, but I guess it’s just not a priority for me yet.

  4. I also did not like Weeds much, but very much liked this! Subtlety is not its thing, but the characters are mostly great. I actually think Natasha Lyonne is kind of brilliant in her role.

    Spoiler-y spoiler thought (seriously, stop if you want to go in blind): I’m veeery curious how they’ll handle at least the start of Season Two because the end of this one is mega dark. Are they going to have some cheap solution and have everything back to normal by the end of the first episode? Is next season going to go off the rails? Blerg.

    (Yes, I realize I am a sad, sad person for having watched the whole season already.)

    • To clarify, it’s a spoiler-y thought about the ending point of the season for those who are mid-way through. Netflix releasing everything all at once makes talking about TV hard. :(

    • Interesting. In the commentary for Weeds, Jenji said that she and her gang always try to have a theme to each of their season finales, like an homage to The Godfather or Tarantino. I didn’t always think it was successful. I wonder if she’s trying to do that again.

      • Hmm, that is interesting. There are definitely thematic things going on in the S1 conclusion here. The event that happens in the last scene, the way the main character reacts, I do think was building for a while although it was still shocking to me. I guess (–SPOILER–SPOILER–) I was waiting for Piper to snap, but I didn’t anticipate her mental breakdown going so violently, if violent at all.

        I wonder how much Jenji and co view that scene as thematic or specifically character-arc based.

        Blah blah. I’m not speaking very intelligently on this right now, but thanks for that note about the Weeds commentary.

  5. I loved Weeds, even when it got super weird and crap–because I will watch almost anything if it has great dialogue and actors playing characters I love. Which is why I watched 13 episodes of Orange Is the New Black this weekend. It was amazing seeing actresses do brilliant work in roles they would probably not be able to get otherwise–how many shows have almost all female casts? (Plus, “Porn ‘Stache” was the hot Israeli soldier on Weeds and he is super hot, even if not on this show.)

    Favorite scene: when “Crazy Eyes” did her Shakespeare monologue during the Scared Straight yell fest.

    • Just finished the Scared Straight episode (so I still have a few episodes left to go), but that part was great, as are most scenes with Crazy Eyes (e.g. “I threw my pie for you!” and her great unexplained conversation with her WASPy white parents at Thanksgiving).

      Anyway, I’m glad to see this show got brought up on here, as it’s great TV and a really good mix of comedy with legitimate drama and good acting (between her 2 notable speeches while she was in the SHU and the scared-straight speech to the wheelchair girl, I’ve been really impressed with Taylor Shilling in the last few episodes).

    • Pornstache was also Nick Sobotka on The Wire!

      It is really awesome to have a show with an almost all-female cast of various races instead of just beautiful white women.

      I loved the scene in the “ghetto” when some of the girls make fun of yuppies. “Did you see that wonderful documentary about the best sushi in the world?”

  6. Piper Kerman did a nice Moth story about her efforts to get a radio while in prison: http://themoth.org/posts/stories/wall-of-sound

  7. OMG you guys. I went to school with Danielle (Taystee)!! She is a great actress. Glad to see someone I met in art school succeed :)

    (unlike me, who had the bright idea to go to law school. oh well.)

  8. I appreciate how in this show and on Weeds, Jenji Kohan gets a kick out of putting yoga/Whole Foods/mani-pedi loving middle class white women in their place.

  9. I had seen the netflix ads, I listen to the Moth podcast and heard Piper Kerman’s radio story that martinmegs linked to above this comment, and then hilarious improvisor Lauren Lapkus plugged the show on the last couple earwolf podcasts she guested on, so I was going to be watching this show regardless, if anything in support of Lapkus because I find her EXTREMELY hilarious and she has great eyes. I have a bit of a comedy crush on her.

    With all that said and done, I am really enjoying this show. I’m 10 episodes in, and it hasn’t stopped being entertaining and watchable. If there was one thing I was surprised by, it was the darker moments giving ay to lighter moments and sometimes borderline goofy/saccharine stuff. But as the story twists and turns and the protagonist gets more entrenched in prison shit inside and outside of her control, the darkness is creeping back in.

    It wasn’t until the third episode where I thought to myself, “This show has a kind of improved upon Weeds feel,” and then later I hopped online and realized it was from the same creator. I think it even says it in the ads, but for some reason I either forgot I read it or I spaced it completely. Anyway, yeah, it’s like Weeds in the ways Weeds was good.

  10. Yes. This show is great. I’ve devoured all the episodes already (shoutout to unemployment).

    It’s almost a little shocking to see so much diversity on a tv show, of race, sexuality, age, gender identity and socioeconomic status. And for a show to be so woman-centric. Of course none of that would matter if the show wasn’t any good. I can’t remember a soapy show where all the conflict seems so character driven and not at all contrived by the writers room. And the performances are almost all great, even Jason Biggs though I found his character annoying. My biggest complaint is the romance between Daya and the guard. It just never goes anywhere all that interesting.

  11. Watched the whole thing this weekend while I was sick in bed. It’s pretty great. THE ENDING? AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

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