Orange Is the New Black

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TV Series Review

When people talk about where they'd like to live—the mountains, the beach, the city, the country—the word prison doesn't come up that often. Certainly it's never been a dream destination for Piper Chapman, a nice, reasonably well-off suburbanite. She's just not the type, possessing, as she does, a college education, a start-up soap business (which she owns with her best friend) and a fiancé (a young writer named Larry). She's more Bloomingdale's than Big House, more Saks than Slammer.

Or at least that's who Piper was (or thought she was) before she got sent to Litchfield Penitentiary. And this isn't the first time Piper's gone through change. Once upon a time, she was the lesbian lover of Alex Vause, an international drug dealer with whom she smuggled drug money into Belgium.

Whoops.

"It was my lost soul, post-college adventure phase!" she tells Larry. And while Larry may be pretty understanding, the law is not. Piper's forced to cop a plea, surrender herself and spend the next 15 months in the clink. She's just Chapman now—no room for hoity-toity first names in Litchfield—as she tries to stay out of trouble (at least the deadly kind) and learn the prison's complicated sociopolitical culture. And, oh yeah, figure out how to deal with Alex—because her ex-lover happens to be serving time in the very same prison.

And so as the months tick away and Piper's sentence extends through whole television seasons, she, and her rapt viewers, begin to question just who Piper really is.

Orange Is the New Black is based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, who spent about a year in prison for money laundering and drug trafficking. It was created by Jenji Kohan, the mind behind Showtime's Weeds. And most mainstream critics love it with a nearly criminal fanaticism, using language normally reserved for the likes of  Mad Men or Breaking Bad. The San Francisco Chronicle says the program has redefined "television excellence," in fact. And the San Jose Mercury News declares it "one of the summer's must-see shows."

But while the Netflix show is sharply written, populated by multidimensional characters and ultimately has some nice things to say about friendship, acceptance and forgiveness, families will want to send it to jail after watching only a few minutes.

Some of the women in the prison facility are lesbians (either by sexual inclination or lack of male partners), and the Netflix camera tends to linger on their sexual encounters. (There's a transgender inmate as well.) Even when there's no obvious behind-the-bars hanky-panky in play, female nudity is frequent and graphic. There is no privacy here—no doors to keep the camera away from the toilet or shower. Violence includes women (sometimes while naked) getting threatened, beaten up, cut, etc. F- and s- and even c-words are thrown around like so many stale biscuits in the cruddy cafeteria.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Awards

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Orange-Is-the-New-Black: 6-6-2014
Orange-Is-the-New-Black: 7-11-2013

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama, Comedy, Crime

Author

Cast

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman; Laura Prepon as Alex Vause; Michael Harney as Sam Healy; Michelle Hurst as Miss Claudette Pelage; Kate Mulgrew as Galina 'Red' Reznikov; Jason Biggs as Larry Bloom; Natasha Lyonne as Nicky Nichols; Pablo Schreiber as George 'Pornstache' Mendez; Dascha Polanco as Dayanara Diaz

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

Year Published

Reviewer

Paul Asay Paul Asay