Good, Bad & Ugly Review: Orange Is The New Black

Created By: Jenji Cohan
Starring: Taylor Schilling, Jason Biggs, Michelle Hurst and Kate Mulgrew
Studio: Netflix

Synopsis:From the creator of “Weeds” comes a heartbreaking and hilarious new series set in a women’s prison. Piper Chapman’s wild past comes back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates. (Source)

The Good:
The thing that really grabbed me most about this show is the way the lead character was allowed to be so 3-dimensional. Initially we are shown Piper Chapman as a sympathetic figure who is paying the consequences for a mistake she made during her wild youthful days but it is not long before we are given the full view of Piper as a sometimes selfish, manipulative, emotionally needy and self-destructive character as well as being obsessed with fairness and funny and loyal. She is not just a long-suffering heroine but an actual person with (many) flaws and that makes her far easier to relate to than if she had just been TV show perfect and Taylor Schilling does a masterful job portraying all of the different facets of the character while still making it easy to like and root for her.
The depiction of the Litchfield Women’s Correctional Facility (affectionately known as The Litch) was also very refreshing in that it was unlike the majority of prison settings we see in movies and TV. Sure there is the requisite threats of violence and sexual assault but most times they were just idle threats and instead we were shown a place where the women, despite being segregated by race, were eager to make connections and built little families. The desire for some kind of sisterhood was one of the strongest motivations of the women at The Litch and made for an original take on a well worn setting.
Kate Mulgrew as a tough as nails Russian inmate was a real treat and it was good to see a seasoned actress like Mulgrew in a role that was so different from anything else I was used to seeing her in. Truthfully all of the women who make up the supporting cast of inmates are great but Capt. Janeway really stands out.
And the theme song by Regina Spektor is quite catchy.

The Bad:
Some of the “villains” of the show were a bit too cartoony and paper thin and in the case of one of them seemed to pull his motivations for being such a douche out of thin air.
I also could do with less of Piper’s friends on the outside being shown and instead give us more flashbacks of the inmates and how they got to The Litch.

The Ugly:
Every time that Jason Biggs was on screen was an awful viewing experience. His character of Piper’s fiancee was a complete jackass and I am not sure if it was intentional on the part of the writing or if it was a result of how Biggs played the part. Either way the character and actor were the worst parts of this show and made me want to turn it off every time he was on the screen which was way too many times as far as I am concerned.

Best Episode: Lesbian Request Denied
This episode may have been the funniest of the season with Piper being drafted as the wife of the mentally challenged inmate, Crazy Eyes. The pursuit by Crazy Eyes and Piper’s awkward attempts to rebuff her were just hilarious.

Worst Episode: Tall Men With Feelings
This wasn’t a really bad episode (the subplot with Pornstache is great) but there was just way too much Jason Biggs and that automatically equals awful.

Final Verdict: A witty and fresh show that balances the humorous and dramatic masterfully thanks to amazing writing and top notch acting from all of the female actors. The only downside is the male roles (especially Jason Biggs as Piper’s fiancee) are nowhere near as fully fleshed out and sometimes drag the quality of the show down. All in all though this is a great addition to Netflix’s line-up of original programming and is more than good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the best shows on cable TV currently.

Rating: B+

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