Who: The show is available to Netflix subscribers exclusively, as it is Netflix produced original content.
What: “Orange is the New Black,” a comedy drama about a Manhattan woman whose past catches up to her and for which she must serve time in federal prison.
Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman, a seemingly run-of-the-mill woman and maker of homemade soaps who just became engaged to be married to Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs), her unemployed but wholly supportive writer boyfriend. Unfortunately, Piper learns that she must serve a short sentence in federal prison after she is implicated in the bust of an international drug cartel, of which her former girlfriend, Alex Vause (Prepon), was a member and who Piper aided and abetted. Piper’s wild and adventurous past, including her ambiguous sexual orientation, becomes a secret revealed not only to Larry and his family but to her family as well.
What’s more, Piper finds, at first, that she is wholly unequipped for prison. Though some, like unabashed, self-proclaimed “lesbian junkie” Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne), are kind and helpful to her, others, like kitchen head Red (Mulgrew) in the first season, show her no mercy, particularly after Piper accidentally criticizes the cooking. In addition, the guards, all men, are mostly drunk on their own power, the prison counselors play favorites and are easily offended, and the prison population is divided by race, unofficially but automatically, which offends Piper’s liberal sensibilities. If all that weren’t complicated enough, Piper’s ex Alex is sent to the same prison, and Piper’s emotions are deeply conflicted, as she reasons that only Alex could have pointed the finger to get her in trouble in the first place, while at the same, the old attractions between the two women remain undeniably present. In the meantime, Larry attempts to make the best of his temporary separation from Piper, though he is less than comfortable with the news that Piper and Alex are doing time together.
When: All 13 second season episodes became available for viewing on June 6, 2014, (Happy Birthday to me!).
Where: The show is set in New York, though flashbacks for each of the prisoners who comprise the cast of characters sometimes venture away from New York.
Why: I saw the teaser trailers for the series while watching other programming on Netflix and also on network TV. I was originally drawn in by the fact that Kate Mulgrew, best known as Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager, plays a Russian prisoner and the “mama” of the motley cast of inmates. I later discovered that Laura Prepon, aka Donna from That ’70s Show, is also a featured regular.
How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)
Upon viewing the first season, I rated the show four out of five stars, mainly because it is not the type of show to which I normally gravitate. There are graphic situations, and the main character is potentially annoying in some circumstances. Also, I’m not an overall fan of Jason Biggs. I maintain that rating after viewing the second season; though, the second season may be slightly more compelling than the first given the appearance of a new, polarizing villain and new, sometimes heartbreaking back stories about some of the other inmates.
Would you agree? I asked a panel of fellow Couch Potatoes how they felt about Season 2 for the second of three pilot podcasts “Around the Water Cooler.” This podcast was recorded on February 28, 2015. Give it a listen, and comment below as to whether you share some of the same thoughts.
New Questions – raised in the podcast and otherwise
1) What will happen when Alex returns to prison, now that Piper has schemed with Polly to ensure that Alex would violate her parole and return to prison, most likely Litchfield, with Piper?
2) What is Pennsatuckey’s end of season transformation and exploration of the “gay agenda” really about?
3) What’s going to happen to Kaputo, given that two prisoners escaped (one of them dying) on the first day of his watch?
4) Will we see more of Sophia in season three?
5) What will the aftermath be for Crazy Eyes now that Vee has thrown her to the wolves and abandoned her?
6) Will Red ever get the kitchen back?
7) Will Nicky escape the lure of the heroin she found?
8) Will we get to see back stories of other prisoners, including some of the older prisoners (Red’s friends)?
9) When will Daya have her baby?
10) Will we see Pornstache again?
11) Will the prison improve now that Fig has got her comeuppance?
The podcast panel generally found season two more compelling than season one, almost universally despised Yvonne “Vee” Parker (the season’s villain), and generally had mixed feelings about the main character of Piper, who continues to divide viewers in terms of how sympathetic she is. No one on the panel will miss Larry – or Jason Biggs – who, it was announced, will not be returning for season 3, feeling that concentrating on him distracts from the more interesting and compelling stories in the prison and also necessitates more “Piper time;” though the show is based around her and her life, the panel generally believe the stories and focus on other prisoners to be more compelling, interesting, and/or appealing. Season Two set up several additional dominoes for season three, with the return of Alex (Laura Prepon) confirmed for the third season. Also, the writing remains dynamic and top-notch, easily drawing in the viewer and rendering a “binge watch” of the show to be necessary. The panel had high hopes and expectations that season three will bring more of the same.
Orange is the New Black was renewed for a third season! The premiere date was announced this week to be June 12, 2015. Until then!