Remember when Netflix decided to make its own programming and we were all like “OMG House of Cards” or “WTF Arrested Development”!? Turns out we were all stupid idiots – because the digital station’s real ace up the sleeve was going to be “Orange is the new Black”.
A neo-snobby girl goes to women’s prison. I can forgive you for not being drawn to the pitch, because neither was I. I imagined violence, darkness and cynicism. Instead, I was greeted with warmness, humor and togetherness. What I expected was Oz - what I got was Lost.
I remember clearly, watching Lost’s excellent first season, how my perception on the survivors of Oceanic 815 changed the more I got to know them. The interrogator, the lone wolf, the abusive husband… They were all cliches waiting to be broken.
Orange is the New Black does pretty much the same thing: Characters might seem well-defined and one-dimensional at first, but they keep on surprising you. Of course, a series set in prison is the ideal backdrop for a Lostian approach (in fact, Orange even uses flashbacks liberally to great effect) – you are essentially redefined and reinvinted in prison, just like you would be on a crazy island with a smoke monster.
“Liberally”, however. And that’s the key word. Where Lost sometimes felt the weight of its crazy mythology on its shoulders, Orange feels a lot more free. There is no overarching mystery. There’s not even an exciting or thrilling plot. There’s just a bunch of really cool moments that sort of lead somewhere predictable and unimportant. Moments that can be absurd, dramatic or hilarious, but always feel heartfelt and honest. It’s no coincidence Jenji Kohan (Weeds) is behind this show. There’s a female touch to this story we see all to rarely on the male club house that is TV.
I suggest you watch this show in combination with Orphan Black. Both are excellent, both feature powerful women, and both draw from Lost’s two strengths – Orphan Black with its powerful mythology and Orange is the New Black with its great sense of character.
Hell, the shows even sound alike, so you can create hilarious sitcommy misunderstandings while you’re at it!