I should be working on my Christmas novel. Or editing my novel after that. I worked this morning, but this afternoon, my mind is wandering all over the place. In order to keep myself from losing several hours trolling Facebook, I decided I should take Steff’s advice (she is so often right) (shh! don’t tell her!) and update my blog. As usual, a topic eludes me. I stare. I wonder.
I realized I intended to blog about something, but never got around to it…something that sucked up my attention for thirteen blissful hours (no, not consecutively…give me a little credit). The Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Have you seen it? If not, what are you waiting for? You must have Netflix, so sign up. Trust me, it’s worth it for this one show. And FYI: there may be spoilers ahead. No, there will be spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t watched it and you don’t want to know any details, STOP READING NOW.
Orange is the New Black is based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman. Piper was a happy, well-off, successful New Yorker about to marry her sweetheart, Larry, when her past came back up to bite her right in the ass. It seems that when Piper was a young woman in her early twenties, she was deep into an affair with a woman. A woman who happened to also be a drug dealer. Once, just once, Piper carried some drug money through an airport. Time went on, she and the girlfriend broke up, and Piper moved forward with her life. Cut to ten years later. The girlfriend has been arrested, and in order to cut her own sentence down as much as possible, she named names. One of which was Piper’s. Piper decided to avoid a trial and take a plea bargain of 15 months in prison.
So much for her neat and tidy little world.
There are similarities in the show and the book, but from what I’ve read, the show has pretty much taken on its own direction. The Piper Chapman of the show is not Piper Kerman. Beyond the initial premise, the rest is fictional.
I could go on and on about this show. I hesitated starting it because, frankly, I wasn’t interested in a “women in prison” scenario. Too many things can be done incorrectly. There are too many clichés. I was worried. I admit it. But such is not the case. The show is almost perfect. I decided to make a list of the reasons why I love it so and will be suffering from withdrawals until Season 2 makes its appearance.
1. Taylor Schilling – let’s get this right out on the table. Taylor Schilling, playing the lead role of Piper Chapman, is killing this part. She is ridiculously perfect. Her look, her delivery, her body language. She’s got great comedic timing, but she can also pull off the emotion. I was unfamiliar with her as an actress before this show, but I will be paying close attention to her career from here on out. If she doesn’t get an Emmy nod next year, there is no justice in the world. None.
2. The Writing – it’s tight, it’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s brilliant. The show is being run by Jenji Kohan, the creator of Weeds (another fantastic series), and the scripts are fantastic. The show is simultaneously hilarious, touching, sad, and frightening. In each episode—in addition to watching Piper adjust to life on the inside—we get some background, via flashbacks, on a different character. We see some of their past, and we get an occasional glimpse of what landed them in prison in the first place.
3. The Directors – I pay attention to credits. I know many people don’t, but I am a film and TV buff and I remember names. There have been some pretty well-known directors so far. Jodie Foster did an episode. Andrew McCarthy did two. Constantine Makris is a Law & Order directing staple. Lots of big names helping to run this little show. It’s impressive.
4. The Sexuality – there’s a little bit for everybody here. The show doesn’t shy away from sex or sexuality, and sometimes, the lines are blurred. Sophia is a male-to-female transgender (played by a REAL transgendered actress, Laverne Cox) who has left a wife and son at home. She wants the wife to wait for her (she’s got three more years to her sentence for credit card fraud), but her wife is very frank about missing her husband. And his parts. It’s a tough storyline to watch, and it’s done really well. Nikki is a lesbian. She’s sleeping with Morello, who is straight and engaged and continues planning her wedding to a fiancé who’s only visited her once, even while Nikki looks on, a little heartbroken. Daya is in love with John Bennett, one of the Correctional Officers, and they’ve begun a torrid, clandestine affair, which has become a mess (if only somebody had used his head and worn a CONDOM when shagging a PRISON INMATE, for crying out loud). And Piper? Oh, Piper. She’s engaged to Larry, who starts off the series being as supportive a fiancé as he can, given the circumstances. What Larry doesn’t know (at first) is that Alex is also in the same prison…Alex being the lesbian drug dealer who got Piper thrown in jail in the first place: Piper’s ex.
5. Piper and Alex – chemistry aside (and there’s a ton of it…the dryer scene is one of my very favorites in all of television), I love their storyline. As with the other characters, we get flashbacks of what life was like when they were together, living the good life in their ritzy Manhattan high rise. Alex, the overworked minion of a drug kingpin, Piper, the frustrated young woman who wants nothing more than to spend more time with her girlfriend. And then we see them in prison, understandably standoffish with one another, moving to hesitant friendship, and on to maybe something more as Piper finds her footing in prison while Larry uses her incarceration to further his own career. Is it any wonder she ends up back in Alex’s arms? (And seriously, Alex is played by Laura Prepon of That 70s Show…have you heard her voice? Seen her in her glasses? Who wouldn’t run into those arms?) But it’s not that simple. They both have problems. They both have issues. They both make terrible decisions and are then stuck trying to figure out what to do. They’re both deeply flawed. And it’s brilliant.
6. The Character Development – which is, really, back to the writing again. The characters grow and shift and change right before your eyes over thirteen episodes. I loved that. I loved that I had sympathy for somebody early on and ended up despising that same person by the end <cough/Sgt.Healy/cough>. I loved that I started out hating somebody and ended up feeling bad for her in the last episode (I’m looking at you, Red), even though she was getting what she deserved. I loved that a character who seemed fairly one-dimensional actually showed some depth by the end (Mendez the Creep). I loved that I was touched by the romance of Daya and Bennett, and now I think they’re both kind of dumb. Nothing stays the same at Litchfield Correctional Facility.
7. The Secondary Characters – you don’t see them every episode, but even the bit players have meaty roles. Taystee, Poussey, Black Cindy, Miss Claudette, Fischer, the Sister, Big Boo, Watson, Yoga Jones. They all have depth. Not one character in this show–lead, minor, or bit–is flat. I consider that a writing coup.
8. The Lines – it’s been a long time since I’ve watched a TV show with lines good enough to quote. And lots of my friends (and my sister) watched, so I can whip off a line at one of them and they’ll totally get it. Some of my favorites (and I may not have them exactly right, but you’ll get the gist):
“I’m more of a dishwasher kind of girl, sir.”
“Hey. Not lesbians. It’s eleven.”
“I threw my pie for you.”
“They come over the border, hop out of the trunk of a car, and learn to make eggs. God bless America.”
“Vanilla and vanilla…swirl, swirl…swirl, swirl…”
(and in response) “I don’t think it’s technically a swirl if they’re the same flavor…”
“And more importantly, I’m not suggesting I want you back, you Park Slope narcissist.”
“I don’t like her ways. Girl ways. Boy ways. Drug ways.”
“Are you cheating on me and Larry with Crazy Eyes? Because there is NOT room for the four of us.”
“Shhh! Show, don’t tell.”
And so many more! I haven’t been so excited for the next season of a show since I got hooked on The X-Files. I swear. Orange is the New Black. On Netflix. Watch it. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.