Did you ever wonder what would happen if Weeds took its self just a little more seriously?*
Jenji Kohan’s newest effort in many ways answer those questions. Her new Netflix original show Orange is The New Black is one of the best things I’ve seen this year. At this very moment I am just about half way through the series which is great because the first season could horrible fall apart and this blog post will be a great time capsule of when I wrote a glowing review about these seven episodes of the Netflix version of Caged Heat**.
What is really great about OTNB is it’s ability to deftly weave touching, funny and sometimes heartbreaking character back stories in with episodic gags and the story of Piper Chapman’s experience as a sheltered business woman forced to spend 15 months in minimum security prison. Like in her 8 seasons of Weeds, Kohan is able to blend social commentary with biting satire. OTNB is for sure heavier and there will be times where you feel strongly for the characters who are some of the richest and most interesting on television, but there is also a wryness at the heart of the show that makes is really enjoyable.
The performances in OTNB are really the amazing part of the show. The large ensemble cast is full of great performances, between, Taylor Schilling, Laura Perpon, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Pablo Schreiber, Jason Biggs***, Uzo Aduba****, Laverne Cox, Tayrn Manning, Danielle Brooks, and Michael Chernus***** there is so much solid funny acting to go around.
If you are looking for a great dramatic comedy to serve as a surrogate for Louie’s abusively long hiatus check out Orange Is The New Black, you will not be disappointed.
*What if Nancy’s loss of dignity was done in a less comical way? What if some of the peripheral characters were a little bit more three dimensional than joke fodder for Doug and Andy? Would it have been a better show or at least a show that was more consistent.
**Caged Heat used to play on CBC at 2 am when I was a kid? Every time someone rips on our public broadcaster in the media I want to say, “Fuck you, this is the network that brought 12 year old me Caged Heat and Emmanuelle In Space.”
***Yah that’s right. Jason “My career high water mark is fucking a pie” Biggs somehow pulls off vulnerable and smarmy in the same breath.
****Playing Susan aka Crazy Eyes she gives a Michael K. Williams level performance in the Wire as a mentally disturbed inmate with a crush on the lead character.
*****He only appears in a few episodes as Piper’s younger brother. He absolutely steals every scene he is in like a chubby Thomas Crown. Give this character his own spinoff where he just waxes philosophical about organic farming and cumming and I would be watching in a second.