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Orange is the New Black


Tyler
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I didn't pay much attention to Orange is the New Black when it first appeared on Netflix--never got more than a couple of episodes into Weeds, Jenji Kohan's previous show; not a fan of most of the cast (Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Jason Biggs); and it also wasn't hyped the way House of Cards or Arrested Development were--but after it got several positive reviews, I checked it out.

 

It's about Piper Chapman (Schilling), who is going to prison because she helped her girlfriend at the time (Prepon) transport drug money. That was ten years earlier, and she's engaged now (to Biggs) and living a normal life, before her crime was found out.

 

I don't think it's as great as some of the reviewers seem to, but it is much better than I was expecting. The tone--it's comedic, but also goes for drama and realism--is difficult to balance, but it works. There's more to the show than I thought, as well. It focuses mainly on Schilling's character, but you also get to know the other inmates, both through their stories in prison and through Lost-lite style flashbacks that show how they ended up in jail.

 

A lot of the performances are quite good, especially Schilling, Natasha Lyonne (another American Pie veteran), Laverne Cox as a transgender woman, and Kate Mulgrew as Red, the Russian prison chef. The episodes are often built around seemingly mundane things--losing a screwdriver, seeing a chicken--that become a big deal in the prison setting.

 

 

Orange is not for everyone, though. It's quite frank about sexuality, and there are more shower scenes than is really necessary. It's definitely HBO-level, in terms of content.

 

Oh, and Regina Spektor did the theme song.

 

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Okay, I'm three episodes from the end of the season, and Orange is the New Black is the best "TV" show I've seen this year.

 

It also features one of the worst (Pennsatucky), as well as one of the best (Sister Ingalls), Christian characters I've seen recently.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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  • 4 weeks later...

Just finished watching the first season (and I think it's safe to say I was spurred to check it out partly because of your posts here, Tyler).

I like a lot of it, but I'm not at all surprised to learn that the show exaggerates the conflicts (and the sexuality) far beyond what the original true-life memoir indicated. And hoo boy, if none of those other things triggered my b.s. meter, the extremely negative Christian-fundamentalist stereotype sure did. (If anything, her back-story -- which is fleshed out in the second-to-last episode, so, y'know, SPOILER ALERT and all that -- actually makes the anti-Christian stereotyping even *worse*, by suggesting that pro-life groups would actively campaign on behalf of *anyone* who had committed violence at an abortion clinic regardless of what their motives were. I'm sure the writers thought they were Making A Statement or Giving Their Character Some Depth or something, but it just comes off as so totally tone-deaf, along with much else about this character.)

As Tyler notes, there *is* a Catholic nun in the prison, too, who is a much more sympathetic character, but I lost my patience for the Hollywood juxtaposition of evil evangelicals versus sympathetic (especially if they're kind of liberal and/or mostly keep their faith to themselves) Catholics ages ago.

I am intrigued to learn, too, that the transgender character is played by an actual transgender actress. I initially assumed the character was being played by a man, period, especially because one of the earliest episodes includes flashbacks to the character's life as a man -- but then I read that the real-life actress's *(identical?) twin brother* played the character in those flashbacks. ...Oh, and apparently that episode was directed by Jodie Foster! Interesting...

There's also a subplot twist (not really a *plot* twist, per se) about two-thirds of the way through the series that had me thinking of a similar plot twist near the end of House of Cards, and I began to wonder if *every* Netflix original series is going to have a bit where someone who is responsible for someone else's death tries to pass it off as a suicide. What say you, Arrested Development fans?

Anyway, I *am* curious to see where the second season will go with all this.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I would note, Peter, that there are in fact pro-life groups that pay respect to people who have shot and killed doctors.  The group Army of God (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_of_God_(United_States)) holds fundraisers and give awards to people in prison for shooting doctors. So, it may be exaggerated on the show, but it is not without precedence.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Thom Wade wrote:

: The group Army of God . . . holds fundraisers and give awards to people in prison for shooting doctors.

Do they show up out of nowhere to provide legal representation to "white trash" types who happened to shoot abortionists for reasons having nothing to do with the pro-life cause? And is it actually possible to get a *lighter* sentence in those cases by arguing that the shooter was acting out of moral conviction? (Yes, the pro-life lawyer here basically lies about the shooter's motives.)

It just seems so counter-intuitive to me that any pro-life organization would automatically rally behind someone like that, and turn someone like that into a figurehead, without first vetting the person or something. How do they know the person won't open her mouth and contradict them?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 months later...

Netflix is submitting the show as a drama for the Golden Globes and Emmys. They had originally planned on submitting it to the comedy categories, but changed their minds for some reason. It seems like the competition is higher on the drama side, but I suppose the prestige is, as well.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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  • 3 months later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Season 2 went up today. I just watched the first episode.

 

It's a major departure from the first season-- only a few of the regular cast members are in it, it's  set in a different prison, which means the show had the budget for a new set --but it works quite well. There's a sense of disorientation that's conveyed quite effectively, and Taylor Schilling carries the episode better than the earlier Piper-centric episodes.

 

[edit] And in episode 2, Piper doesn't show up at all. I'm not sure about the "kids" flashbacks concept, although the first two have been good.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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  • 8 months later...

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