10 Reasons Why ‘Orange is the New Black’ is the Show You Should be Watching

With major draw cards Breaking Bad and Dexter broadcasting their finales many viewers are going to be looking for a new hard-hitting adult drama to blow their minds. Well, if you haven’t seen Orange is the New Black yet (and it seems that many people haven’t) this is the show you are looking for. Why? Here’s ten reasons.

It Comes From a Good Pedigree


Orange is the New Black  comes to use from Jenji Kohan, best known as the creator of Weeds. Now while I was madly in love with Weeds when it started, when they moved the story out of the suburban setting at the end of season 3 interest quickly waned. The setting was integral to the concept and without it things didn’t work as well. I think we’re safe from such fate befalling Orange is the New Black (ok, I’m just going to write OITNB from here on out) since the characters cannot leave the current location. Perfect.

It’s a Fresh Concept

Orange is the New Black line up

Surprisingly there’s only a couple of prison based shows in the history of television. Given the benefits of having a set location that you’re never going to be pressured to change, the ease with which you can introduce and remove characters and the success of such shows in the past (Oz, Prisoner and [initially] Prison Break) you’d think they’d be in higher demand. This show is set entirely in a woman’s prison, and it’s not a thriller or out to shock with ‘gritty’ realism. It’s a drama with a dash of comedy. You can’t tell me that you’re not intrigued by going behind the walls of a modern woman’s prison. You can’t. Stop trying.

It Lives in the Grey Area


Taking a look at what’s popular in on the box right now there’s a trend towards ambiguous heros and villains. Dexter, Bate’s Motel, Hannibal, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones all suggest that we’re living in a time when we don’t want to see clear cut good guys and bad guys. The cast and the storys given to us in OITNB never paints any one person as good or bad, giving us antagonists who are also the victim and allies who nurse deeper resentments that motivate their behaviour. Don’t expect to pick sides. 

The Cast All Nail It

Orange is the New Black Cast

Every cast has a weak link. There’s someone who isn’t quite keeping pace with the rest of the team or doesn’t quite gel with their character. It’s hard to pick any one person in this cast who doesn’t give it their all. There seems to be a terrific energy on the set as they bounce of each other with ease. Even some actors who have had rocky careers (ahem Natasha Lyonne) are brilliant.

The Characters Constantly Defy Expectation

Crazy Eyes

When watching the pilot episode I thought I had the character types pinned down. Red was the antagonist, Nicky Nichols was the wisecracker and Crazy Eyes was the comic relief. Boom. It wasn’t long, however, before the characters began to reveal the many different layers that lurk beneath the first impression. They are at times empathetic, sympathetic, terrifying and at all times realistic.

The Writers Will Play You Like a Nintendo

OITNB Alex Piper

Damn, these guys are good. The writers are masterful at drawing the viewers into the drama and tweaking your emotions. Without wanting to spoil anything, there are times when Piper is doing something to another character and you’re happy to go along with it and take her side. Hell, the target of this menacing had it coming. And then…you see the consequences play out and it’s not as funny as you thought. You wind up feeling guilty for supporting the ‘good guy’. Well played.

The Pacing is Perfect


You could do what many people have done with this series and marathon the entire first season without ever getting bored. There is rarely a downpoint in the series, but that isn’t to say that it’s a constant barrage of action. Instead there are enough interesting characters with their own story to ensure that there’s always something going on. Even if the characters are simply having a conversation you’re likely to be completely hooked from the get go.

There are Flashbacks…But It’s Not a Rigid Formula


Remember Lost? That show had a recurring gimmick where every episode would feature a secondary story told in flashback (or flashforward, or flashsideways, or whatever bullshit they pulling that week). This provided good backstory and insight into both the characters and the mystery that surrounded the island. Unfortunately they hitched themselves to this concept and it ran out of steam long before the confused and ambiguous ending. OITNB uses a similar formula to provide the viewer with a backstory relating to how some of the prisoners found themselves locked up, which is essential in this setting. They don’t, however, make this journey into the past a compulsory part of the story telling, meaning that nothing feels forced or pointless, like how Jack got his tattoo.

It Doesn’t Shy Away From Realism


Let me expand on that heading by also noting that this isn’t something that feels like it’s being shoved down your throat. There is a very realistic tone to proceedings (possibly as a result of it being based on a memoir), meaning all taboo topics being stretched out in the sun for all to see. Sexual relationships, physical and emotional abuse, corrupt officials, racial tensions…some of it forms the basis for the drama and some of it is just part of the day to day routine for the prisoners.

The Theme Song is By Regina Spektor

If you need a shallow reason to watch the show…done.