Friday, October 4, 2013

Great Binge Watch - Orange is the New Black


Got your newest binge-watch recommendation and it's fantastic!

You may have already heard all about Netflix's breakout hit about inmates at a women's prison and how great it is.  I'm here to tell you the critical acclaim is absolutely merited.  This is one terrific show.


Piper Chapman (the perfectly cast Taylor Schilling, Mercy) has it pretty good and is happily in love with fiancee Larry (Jason Biggs, Mad Love, American Pie) until it all comes crashing down.  Turns out Piper has quite a wild past as an international drug mule for ex-girlfriend (yep) Alex (Laura Prepon, That '70s Show) and a decade later it results in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. Off to pay her debt to society, Piper trades comfort and luxury life for bad food, fearful conflicts and expected camaraderie and confidence amidst an eccentric group of inmates.

Because this program is on Netflix, it has the freedom to portray everything, including language and graphic sex and you actually don't feel for a second you are watching a television show.  You lose yourself in the lives of these people and their lives behind the bars.  The acting by all is so natural and the characters so rich and varied.  Not to mention this has the most realistic looking cast of women you'll ever see. 

This isn't a show of entirely beautiful, young starlets.  There are women of all shapes and sizes, shaved heads, bad teeth, bad hair, makeup-free faces - so refreshing and real.  Terrific array of ethnicities and sure, stereotypes are enacted, but in the prison setting, it works without offending.  It also helps to make Piper more of a odd fish in a very uncomfortable pond.

The performances are amazing across the board and I can't even point out one above the rest.  As I was watching I felt like they were all actors I've seen before, but when I IMDB'd them, I found that so many are new to me.  But I think that's a testament to their talent - they all felt like season veterans.  I do want to at least mention them:

Kate Mulgrew (Red)
   Natasha Lyonne (Nicky)
       Michelle Hurst (Miss Claudette)
              Pablo Schreiber (Mendez)
                  Laverne Cox (Sophia)
                      Nick Sandow (Caputo)
                           Uzo Aduba (Suzanne, a.k.a. "Crazy Eyes")
                              Dascha Polanco (Daya)
                               Samira Wiley (Poussey)
                                   Yael Stone (Morello)
                                        Danielle Brooks (Taystee)
                                            Constance Shulman (Yoga Jones)
                                                Taryn Manning (Pennsaticky)
                                                    Beth Fowler (Sister Ingalls)
                                                        Madeline Brewer (Tricia)

It's one of the best ensemble casts on TV and it was such an easy binge.  Couldn't wait to get to the next episode.  Piper's evolution during her incarceration is fascinating to watch and season one left us with a hell of a cliffhanger.  Too bad we have to wait till next year to see what happens.  But damn sure I'll be watching!

BOTTOM LINE: Truly arresting television.  Lock me in for Season Two!

Orange is the New Black is streaming on Netflix.

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