Adapted from Piper Kerman’s 2008 memoir “Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” Jenji Kohan’s second television series is hardly worth the watch.
As the latest Netflix original production, “Orange Is the New Black” has all of the standard components of a hit television series: a few established actors; an Emmy-winning creator; a king-sized budget, “just under $4 million [per episode],” Creative Artists Agency representative Peter Micelli said in a Variety interview; and to top it off, singer-songwriter Regina Spektor’s newest single as its theme song.
Unfortunately, it lacks selling performances from lead roles as well as a short-lived plot.
Kohan’s prison saga began when kale-crunching yuppie Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Shilling, “The Lucky One”) previous involvement in an international drug cartel catches up with her, and she is forced to put her comfortable life with her fiancé Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs, “American Pie”) on hold for 15 months when she is sent to federal prison.
This preset time period and claustrophobic setting places a limit to how far the plot can go before it begins to lose its direction.
Following suit from Kohan’s first television success, “Weeds,” the “Orange” storyline follows another fortunate, open-minded and well-intentioned woman who has a knack for letting her daring sense of adventure get the best of her.
However, while Mary-Louise Parker played “Weeds” lead Nancy Botwin persuasively enough to win her a Golden Globe Award for best actress in 2006, Shilling’s unconvincing and artificial performance as Piper Chapman isn’t exactly worth praising.
Aside from Shilling, having an easily typecast Biggs as a supporting role is no benefit to the show either, since he brings back memories of the awkward but lovable Jim Levenstein in the “American Pie” series, where he is known for literally getting caught with his pants down.
It is hard to forget a role like that when trying to take the aspiring journalist and supportive boyfriend Larry Bloom seriously.
Despite this, Netflix felt confidently enough about “Orange” to renew a second season for the series on June 27, even before the series premiered on July 11.
Normally, this would be an extremely bold move from any regular network, but because Netflix’s viewers pay up front, the show does not have to go above and beyond anyone’s expectations.
Interestingly, whether “Orange” has exceeded expectations or Netflix is lowering its standards will remain unknown to the public due to the fact that Netflix won’t release any hard viewership numbers for any of their series, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Along with later seasons from shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Prison Break,” “Orange” is already pushing its luck trying to squeeze juice from a limited plot.
For a show that doesn’t miss an opportunity to show some full-frontal female nudity, “Orange”definitely missed out on an opportunity to expand itself to a show worthy of critical acclaim. And even though Kohan’s writing is addicting by nature, “Orange” will inevitably be forgotten after its newness wears off.