ONIBCredit: javrsmith

Netflix appears to have another winning season of Orange is the New Black. The first season episodes were edgy, at times funny, at other times quite sad. It was quite a departure from other television shows in how it portrayed prison life.

OITNB follows the experiences of Piper as she progresses from absolute newbie, to a fairly hardened prison veteran.

No Spoilers

Luckily, this article will not offer any spoilers. Those unfamiliar with the show can follow and not have any plot elements revealed, beyond a general description of the show, and characters.

Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling,  is the main focus of the show. Her previously comfortable world is thrown upside down by her incarceration in a women's prison. She meets a side of society that she never knew existed. How she copes is quite interesting. Through the shows, she maintains a sense of dignity, except for periods when emotions overwhelm her. Piper is surprised to find that a woman from her past is already a prisoner in the facility.

Alex Vause, played by Laura Prepon, was previously involved with Piper. She comes from a different background than Piper and is depicted as quite well adjusted to prison life when Piper arrives. Her history with Piper causes a substantial upheaval to her life in prison.

Other Characters

Sam Healy, played by Michael Harney, is a prison officer. He seems to befriend Piper but his staid background causes him to alter his behavior. In the end, his actions cannot be understood by Piper and he ceases to be friendly.

Galina Red Reznikov, played by Kate Mulgrew, is a prisoner who is in charge of the prison kitchen. This gives her a lot of power over other inmates. She is from a tough life involving Russian mobsters which explains how she uses her power.

Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs, is Piper's love interest. The separation of the couple due to Piper's criminal past weighs heavily on their relationship. Behavioral changes in he and Piper are featured in many scenes.

Crazy Eyes, played by Uzo Aduba, is an outlandish character in the prison who Piper meets. Crazy eyes is unlike anyone Piper has ever met before and the dynamic relationship between the two is strained at first, becoming rather comedic later on.

The cast of OITNB plays the characters well. The show is based on the real-life story of Piper Kerman, upon whom the character of Piper Chapman is based. Kerman has indicated that the show is similar to her prison life in some parts, but vastly different in many ways. She published her memoirs as "Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison" in 2010. It became a best seller.

Since then, the author has spoken to various groups such as students, lawyers, and correctional facility workers. She has also addressed a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee discussion of constitutional rights. Her work has earned an award from the John Jay College Center on Media, Crime and Justice.


Orange Is the New Black: Season 1
Amazon Price: $19.98 $10.08 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 23, 2015)
Season 1 of the show for those who do not subscribe to Netflix. Available on DVD.
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Aug 23, 2015)
The memoirs that were adapted into the hit Netflix series.

Season Two

June 6, 2014, saw the release of season two. As per previous Netflix series, all episodes were released simultaneously. Devoted fans immediately began "binge" watching the shows. Despite the call for people NOT to do so, many fans expressed their intent to immediately watch every episode. Certainly many people will watch at least one episode, and likely more, during the June 6 to 8 weekend.

As an entertainment method, however, binge watching a series is generally a poor experience. The plot developments are often subtle. They can actually improve over time, as a viewer thinks about the show. During a binge episode, the mind is in a constant state of excitement and little time is available to relate plot elements to the viewers' own experiences.

Other Netflix series have also released all episodes for a season at once. "House of Cards" did so for both season one and two. People immediately started binge watching all shows. This distribution model is generally unique to Netflix, certainly to Internet based content delivery channels.

Similar to the marathon viewing, on June 6, 2014, Internet searches began to target OITNB. By 6PM Eastern time, more than 200,000 individual searches had been served by Google alone. The search term hit third highest rank, close to the #1 and #2 searches, and more than double the #4 term, "National Donut Day". The number 2 search term was for "D-Day" as June 6, 2014 represented the 70th anniversary of the famous World War II Allied invasion the European coast.

Similar searches on Twitter were quite common on June 6th as well. Again, results seemed to increase greatly after about 6PM Eastern time. Doubtless, many people would begin watching one, or more, episodes after they arrived home from their work day.

As the evening of June 6 advances, searches for the show were expected to climb on all search engine rankings. Whether it would be enough to top the charts for the day, or not, will be interesting to observe.


Warning: Plot Lines may be Revealed during this Video

Taylor Schilling Talks about the Show

Reviews of the Show

The first season is offered for sale on Amazon in DVD form. Since it was released, 34 reviews have netted an average grade of 3.9 stars. The original book has received more than 2000 reviews with an average grade of 4.0 stars. These ratings are very consistent, and a great indication of the quality of both the book and the television shows.

In addition to the large number of highly positive reviews, there are actually comparatively few poor reviews. Many times, large numbers of people deliver very low ratings when they comment at all. For this show, fully 50% of the reviews are either 5 or 4 stars. That is quite an indication of quality as well.

Another Interview With Taylor Schilling

Notice that she is wearing the same outfit

Taylor Schilling Wearing a Different Outfit for this Interview

Prison Realities for Women

As the show portrays, the prison system in the United States is populated by many ethnic groups. Latinas, African-Americans, and others, are largely represented. Many incarcerated women are pregnant, and others do become pregnant while in prison. The United States has had separated prison facilities for women, starting in 1873 with the maximum security facility in Indiana.