Orange Is the New Black, Netflix's latest endeavor in original programming, follows petite blonde Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) trials and travails while serving a 15-month prison sentence for transporting drug money 10 years ago. Written by Weeds scribe Jenji Kohan and based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, Orange is the New Black premiered on the streaming video service on Thursday to rave reviews.

“You hear “women in prison” story, and chances are your mind spins off in multiple directions, few of them good,” wrote USA Today’s Robert Bianco. “Instead, what you get from Jenji Kohan’s (Weeds) unexpectedly affecting new 13-episode series is a true rarity: a deft mix of comedy and drama in which the prison feels like a real place and the women are actual people, rather than a thinly veiled excuse to stage catfights, lesbian fantasies and sexual assault.”

Chapman’s story is told though multiple flashbacks from the present. In the present, her hair is cut modestly above her shoulders; she has a profitable artisanal soap line with a friend and a loving fiancé (Jason Biggs). Ten years ago, the 22-year-old Chapman was in a lesbian relationship with Alex (Laura Prepon), who worked for a drug cartel. Whether it was out of love or a sense of adventure, Chapman followed her around Europe, and ended up willingly helping out in one of the schemes.


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“Smart, funny and surprisingly moving, “Orange is the New Black” dares to suggest that the pretty, white, middle-class gal that television so loves to position as an Everywoman is nothing of the kind,” reads the Los Angeles Times review by Mary McNamara.

Following the perpetually intense House of Cards with Kevin Spacey, and the much hyped fourth season of comedy series Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black strikes a unique tone. Some compare it to Kohan’s Weeds, insofar as its tragicomic feel. It’s been praised for offering so many diverse and complex stories for its female characters – black, Hispanic, straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, the bullies, the bullied, the shy, the overtly sexual, old and young, etc.

“It's very funny and occasionally quite moving, with a crackerjack cast and provocative insights into the way that race and power and magical chickens function in the penal system,” wrote Melissa Maerz in Entertainment Weekly’s early review of the show. “ Each episode delves into a different inmate's background, and every new character makes you more invested in this strange micro-society than the last.”

All 13 episodes of Orange Is The New Black can currently be viewed on Netflix

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