Monday, 15 February 2016

Review: Orange Is the New Black, Season One

When I eventually gave in and downloaded Netflix, which is a decision I'm still happy about to this day, Orange Is the New Black was one of the first series I added to my to-watch list. It was another of those programmes that I'd heard never-ending amounts about, along with the likes of Pretty Little Liars, House of Cards and Once Upon a Time. 

Honestly though, I really didn't think Orange Is the New Black would be my thing and I thought I probably wouldn't enjoy it all that much. I'm quite fussy when it comes to comedy, and the promo I'd seen portrayed it as the kind of show I really don't find funny. But I knew I had to give it a go because everyone was raving about it.

Orange Is the New Black is based on the memoir of the same name by a real person, Piper Kerman, who spent a year in a women's federal prison for money-laundering charges. The show looks at Piper's struggles with herself, other women in the prison and her relationship with fiancĂ©e Larry. It also attempts to explore issues of corruption within the authoritative figures who run the prison. 

For me, Orange Is the New Black took a while to get into, and I wasn't fully hooked until about the fifth episode. I don't know if it's because I'm not used to this style of series, or because the plot is slow starting, or because it takes a while to warm to the characters, but it is definitely worth sticking it out. 

The series is labelled as a comedy, or sometimes a comedy-drama, and so I wasn't expecting the range of emotions that it draws out. Throughout the first season I've been amused, scared, disgusted, confused, happy, awfully guilty and so sad that I've cried real tears.

I'm not sure I would class is as a comedy myself, because although many of the characters are hilarious and some events are funny to watch, I wouldn't say it's laugh-out-loud kind of show, but maybe that's just me. It's hard to place genre-wise; some scenes feel out-rightly drama, and others feel a little more sitcom, but without the cheap laughs. One thing is certain, it's a complete assault on your emotions. 

As well as the brilliantly written script, the characterisation is what makes this a stand-out series, and is probably the biggest contribution to the abundance of awards it has won, and even being Netflix's most-watched series. I've never watched anything with such a range of eclectic characters, and despite the unusual behaviour and actions of so many of them, there's not one you don't fully believe in.  

Having said that, I do struggle a little with Piper, the protagonist, which is a shame. From episode to episode I can never decide if I like her or not. At the best of times I find her a little weak, and at the worst she annoys me a great deal. I think the problem is that she is frustratingly indecisive, and very often pathetically whiny

That's not to say that this is any fault of the script or Taylor Schilling's portrayal, in fact it only adds to my emotional involvement in the show. But I can't help hoping that she becomes a little more likeable in the next season. 

Have you seen Orange Is the New Black? Let me know in the comments what you're watching at the moment!


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