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Orange Is The New Black

Remember, back in the day, when your favourite television show aired once a week? Thanks to the Internet those days are long gone. When it comes to modern television, more and more people are choosing to binge. Because the typical viewer no longer wants to wait a week to see what happens next, binge viewing has led to the creation of new and innovative serials, including Orange is the New Black (Orange)

Netflix seems to be the place to go for binge-watching TV as they release an entire season at once and Orange may possibly be its best TV show so far. Netflix is an Internet Protocol television (IPTV) streaming site, currently not available in Australia. It has been reported in the media that this is because Australia’s top cable provider, Foxtel, monopolises the cable TV market, thus preventing Netflix services to enter the Australian market as a competitor.

Foxtel instead buys Netflix programming and packages them as their own – screening them on their own schedule (usually between one to six months after it’s aired in the US). As a result, Australians that want to watch series like Orange when it’s ‘new’ illegally download or use proxies and other methods to bypass geographic restrictions to view Netflix content before it airs on Foxtel.

Orange is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir titled, Orange Is The New Black: My Year in Women’s Prison with the screenplay written/ created by Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds) and produced by Lionsgate Television. Orange is a “dramedy”, somewhere between the serious and the humorous. The pacing is spot on with not a second wasted, which makes for compulsive viewing. This is a show which seeks to celebrate the women it represents, not condemn them. A word of caution: it’s that compelling you might find it difficult to stop at just one episode.

The show’s protagonist is Piper (Taylor Schilling), is a New Yorker in her mid-30s who is engaged to be married to struggling writer Larry (Jason Biggs). Piper’s life seems headed on the right track when she’s suddenly blindsided by a conviction for a crime she had committed 10 years previously for her former lesbian lover Alex (Laura Prepon), an international drug smuggler. Needless to say, this is all new to Larry. Rather than focus solely on Piper and her problems, while she is incarcerated Orange dives deep into the lives of a diverse ensemble cast of females, made up of mostly unknowns who make these characters feel lived-in and real. These women are fully fleshed out people rather than two dimensional clichés. Orange achieves this through flashbacks, with each episode focusing on a different character, creating a prism effect as their past reflects off their present, their relationships with one another and, ultimately, the viewer.

Because we see the crimes – however harsh and extreme they are – from the points of view of the inmates, it’s difficult not to empathise with these women. The show has already garnered praise for its handling of race, gender, class and sexuality. You get to watch women on-screen of all body types, ages and races. This helps viewers – especially minorities – relate to and connect with characters on-screen in ways typically denied, which is something that Orange’s creator Jenji Kohen has frequently cited as a drawcard/attraction to the project.

Orange is expected to air in Australia before the end of the year.

Serena Walton

The author Serena Walton

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