35. Orange is the New Black

Creator: Jenji Kohan
Years: 2013–Present

It’s pretty incredible how a show can be so so good in one area and so so bad in another. I know that’s kind of how I described Dexter, but the goodness and badness there evolved and changed. The problems with Orange have been the same since the beginning. There is hope, though.

Based on the memoir of a WASP who spent a year in prison, because of course a show would be harder to sell if it were based on the experience of a minority. Just saying. Hilariously and not surprisingly, the worst part of the show is anything and everything to do with the main character, Piper. Taylor Schilling is okay at best, but the acting is not what I’m concerned about. Her character is just incredibly unlikable, and like Scrubs, other characters point it out constantly. Worse than that, everyone who associates with her is unlikable. Her husband. Her best friend. Her girlfriend. Not only that, they cast Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon, possibly the worst combination of main actors in this countdown’s Top 50. Remember I said there’s hope. They ditched Biggs (and his associates) beginning in season three. They’ve kept Prepon, but I’ll take what I can get.

Why the show ranks so high is that if often focuses on the minorities, whether it be by race or mental illness or socioeconomic status. And there’s a ton of focus on how the system discriminates and segregates and the horrible conditions in prison, even minimum security. The supporting cast shines in episode after episode. I don’t exactly care about what happens to any of them, but the profiles are generally interesting. Some of the flashbacks leave me wanting, and like Lost there’s a few too many. But they’ve been getting better, not just being about “How did this chick get to prison,” but real empathetic looks at how every day decent people can wind up with shitty lives and make terrible mistakes.

There’s also a good laugh out loud moment or two in most episodes. Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes) and Kate Mulgrew (Red) are probably the standouts, but the casting for everyone but the WASPs is just superb (with the exception of Natasha Lyonne, but she’s fine). A hat tip as well to Samira Wiley (Poussey) and Lea DeLaria (Boo). There’s just enough that still annoys me to keep me from always looking forward to watching this, but unlike Girls, I still plan to keep watching.

One thought on “35. Orange is the New Black”

  1. Unlike most shows I say I’ll see eventually, I legitimately believe I’ll see this eventually, despite Biggs and Prepon. Biggs is bad, but with Prepon, I literally can’t come up with a reason she’s still in the business. I did work as an extra on a Biggs movie and he’s a perfectly nice guy, so there’s that. I had a weird moment on set where I caught him and kept him from injuring himself which takes too long to explain, but all the same, it was amusing. The shoot itself outside of that was brutal and left a bad taste in my mouth for a few reasons related to how cutthroat extras can be, which is an embarrassing truth.

    Anyway, I guess I look forward to this, though I worry.

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