Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Shows You Should Be Watching: Orange is the New Black

As a general rule to my well-being and sanity, I usually try to stay away from shows or movies about prison. Otherwise this happens......

And then I get clammy hands and get nervous that someone will frame me for something I didn't do and I'll be sent away to Shawshank where I won't make any friends because Morgan Freeman already got cut loose and because I can't do people's taxes.

My mind is a dangerous place.

As luck would have it though--I am slowly but surely becoming 100% obsessed with Netflix's latest original programming, Orange is the New Black. A show about a federal prison for women that really just speaks to me. But not because it's about prison. Because it's got heart, humor and style.

The show follows Piper Chapman, a woman recently sentenced to over a year in a federal prison for abetting drug smugglers a decade earlier, naturally that was before, when she was a lesbian and also naive and vulnerable to ex-that 70s show stars who wear nerdy glasses.

Piper seems to have come to terms with her sentence though, having been recently engaged--she uses the hope of her future paired with the belief that she is at her a core a good person-- to survive.

Each episode is portrayed in real prison time, coupled with flashbacks to how different inmates got where they are today. It's an interesting storytelling method--not too different from LOST now that I think about it--but in this case, the story-telling mode allows for some deep thinking in terms of the justice system, morality and pretty much just life in general.

What mostly leaves me singing about Orange is the New Black though is that it feels real. I feel like these are real characters, who go on living inside my TV even though I've turned it off. It's not this like crazy, whore-house full of lesbians, where fighting happens and people rip out each others hair over gang rivalry. It's actually fairly civil (being mostly a lower level security prison), and the 'drama' is restricted to misguided social cues, accidental utterings and the unfortunate reality that happens when our past catches up with our present.

Humor is top notch and the sentimentality is at just the right level so that it doesn't feel forced or cheesy. Piper is likable, funny and has some really small boobs (not important but I feel it IS important to note that those are the smallest boobs I've ever seen) (Incidentally, Jason Biggs' character does too when he mentions to Piper over the phone that he misses her small boobs). The other female inmates have intriguing story lines, that really tug at your heartstrings and make you remember those story lines as later episodes unfold.

Prison life may not be dramatic, but it's still difficult to digest at points--sexual encounters in the shower and abuse from mail prison guards to boot. The real heaviness however comes when dissecting the psychological feelings that affect Piper, most poignantly put when she is describing how she feels when she wakes up everyday:

In the morning, when I wake up there are these few seconds before I realize where I am and then I do realize and I can't breathe. And I want to cry.... and throw shit and...kill myself.

Above all else---pressing play on a new episode gives me that flutter of excitement that I love and have been missing ever since I finished the last Harry Potter book. It's pure anticipation of what will come next and how the show will evolve with each and every single episode. It's been a while since I've felt like that with a TV show.

I may only be 4 episodes in at this point, but I know a good thing when I see it. And this my friends---is a very, very good thing.


CashBailey said...

I burned through the whole season over a weekend.

Fantastic show. So funny, edgy, warm and full of great characters. Nowhere near as sappy and chick flick-y as the trailer they released makes it look.

And 'Pornstache' is a villain for the ages. I hated that actor when he was on THE WIRE but here he's magnificent.

Andre Dumas said...

I had no idea he was on the Wire! Yet another show I need to watch---if only that would be on Netflix Instant watch!

CashBailey said...

He's in the oft-maligned second season of THE WIRE, which is easily one of (if not THE) greatest shows in the history of television.


I really liked how they pulled off the reversal of making you think Healy was okay and that Caputo would end up being the problem. When it turned out that Healy was evil and Caputo was just kind of lonely.

I know the show has a fairly dim view of its male characters, but when Caputo gave Fischer the flowers and was then introduced to her boyfriend you had to feel for the guy. Especially if you've ever been in a similar situation, which I have.

Terrence said...

This is great!