Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Orange is the New Black (Jenji Kohan, 2013)

Following in the footsteps of OZ and Bad Girls, Netflix and Jenji Kohan (Weeds) bring us Orange is the New Black, the story of a woman in prison and her fellow inmates. The show is similar, in many ways, to the previous primarily in that it follows many of the necessary WIP tropes.

Taylor Schilling (Argo) is Piper Chapman, our good-girl. She is not a career criminal, and finds herself in prison after falling in with a bad crowd. Other recognizable actresses appear, notably Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Slums of Beverly Hills), Laura Prepon (That '70s Show), and Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager).

Piper finds herself in prison after a ten year-old crime, committed on behalf of a love interest. She is very much the Tobias Beecher of the show; guilty, but not a likely/typical criminal. Once in prison she quickly runs afoul of the wrong people (a necessary part of the WIP genre) and spends the early time trying to make things right.

The difficult part of categorizing television WIP in the same fashion as their theatrical sisters, is that a television series has more time to include more characters. You never have one HBIC, and not all the characters continuously fill the role they start with (notable example, Denny Blood from Bad Girls), but this one definitely sticks to the genre. It begins, almost inexplicably, with a shower scene; staple of the WIP film. A nice change of pace is the inclusion of Piper's fiancé, Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs, American Pie), on the outside and how he deals with her being away.

The show is easily enjoyable by genre fans, as well as non-fans. It is less brutal so far than Oz, but a bit grittier, and funnier, than Bad Girls. Thus far it is very enjoyable, and if you can take some nudity, worth watching. Streaming only on Netflix. It looks as though a second season is already in the works.

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