Introducing... Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black is a dark comedy/drama following the unlikely felon, Piper Chapman. The show is based on the memoir of real life convict Piper Kerman and follows the thoroughly engrossing day-to-day lives of women living in prison. The most striking aspect of this show is it's humanity. With a large ensemble cast that could have easily devolved into stale stereotypes, all the women in this federal corrections facility are fully fleshed out people with back-stories, dreams, and flaws. Spanning a vast racial, socio-economic, and religious spectrum, OITNB is the most progressive and risk-taking show I have watched in a long time. The humor is harsh and spot on, the drama intense, and the main character proves herself to be admirable, relatable, and disturbingly human.
I don't want to get too much into a direct review of the show. It's good. Go watch it. My main point is what does Orange is the New Black mean for American Television?
First off, the format is the real revolution. OITNB is a Netflix original series and the entire first season is available for streaming online. For T.V. gluttons like myself, this makes it easy and satisfying to consume the entire series in a few days. More importantly, the fact that it airs only online gives the show a freedom not experienced by network T.V. or even by cable. They don't have to meet any FCC regulations. Sex and Violence has become common place on cable and both make a solid appearance in OITNB. Even more importantly? They don't have to please advertisers. This gives the writers an unheard of freedom to write what they want and to write it well. They do not disappoint.
The main character is a secular humanist. There are many characters across the LGBT spectrum, including a very well written Trans-woman. Racism is addressed directly without any sugarcoating or tiptoeing around the meat of the subject. OITNB attacks these issues and more head on with a fierce and heart-wrenching authenticity. These real-to-life characters are dealt with intelligently and fairly. I have never seen anything like it on regular T.V.
There is a reason why OITNB generated more viewers and hours viewed than the former spectacular Netflix originals House of Cards and Arrested Development (who boast a total of 12 Emmy nominations in 2013 between them).
The era of Internet Television is here, and I am definitely excited.