A beginner’s guide to Orange is the New Black

As the acclaimed prison-set show heads to the Sony Channel, we run through all you need to know about Orange is the New Black season one.

Orange is the New Black, the award-winning US comedy-drama set in a women’s prison, is heading to the Sony Channel, where season one is airing at the moment.

Here’s our guide to everything you need to know if you plan to visit the inmates of Litchfield Penitentiary.

What is Orange is the New Black about?

The season tells the story of Piper Chapman, whose comfortable New York life is shattered when a past crime comes back to haunt her.

Sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary for having transported a suitcase containing drug money 10 years earlier, Piper has to learn how to adapt to life behind bars.

Leaving her family and fiancé behind, Piper discovers the harsh realities of life in a women’s prison. Behind bars she is reunited with Alex, her former girlfriend and the drug smuggler for whom she carried the money – and who landed her in Litchfield.

Orange is the New Black deals with the harsh realities of prison life including issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality as well as finding humour in a tough situation.

A key feature of the series is flashbacks which develop the characters’ backstories and give insights into their lives.

The TV season is created by Jenji Kohan and is based on a memoir written by Piper Kerman – who is fictionalised as Piper Chapman in the show. One of the prisons the real-life Piper was incarcerated in was FCI Danbury, where US reality star Teresa Guidice, of Real Housewives fame, recently served time.

Where is Orange is the New Black set?

Piper is sent to Litchfield Penitentiary, a fictional federal prison for women in upstate New York. It is a minimum-security prison.

The season was filmed in a former children’s psychiatric hospital in Rockland County, 40 miles north of New York City.

Orange is the New Black

Who are the main characters?

Piper Chapman is the programme’s protagonist – sent to jail for a crime she committed 10 years previously. We can put ourselves in her shoes as she learns the unwritten rules of life in prison.

She leaves behind her fiancé Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs of American Pie fame, to start life behind bars. Season one sees them navigate the difficult waters of a long-distance relationship which has one of the partners behind bars. Piper also leaves behind her solidly upper middle class parents, Carol and Bill, as she heads for jail.

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Needless to say, Piper’s time behind bars in season one introduces her to a wide range of inmates. Orange is the New Black has, in fact, been praised for the diversity and scope of characters it portrays. Here are some of the main figures to look out for: 

Piper runs into a familiar face behind bars in the form of Alex Vause. Not only had the two dated after university, but Alex is the drug smuggler who asked Piper to transport the drug money – landing her in prison by naming her at her trial. Their relationship soon once again becomes complicated behind bars.

Red, as Galina Reznikov is known behind bars, is a strong, leader figure who many of the other inmates look up to. She and newbie Piper initially bump heads.

Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett, behind bars for murder, is another inmate who Piper finds herself on the wrong side of in season one.  

Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren has captured the imagination of many viewers. An inmate who appears to be slightly unhinged, in season one Crazy Eyes takes a shine to Piper and want her to be her ‘prison wife’.  

On the other side of the law – at least on paper - is George Mendez, a prison guard the inmates nickname ‘Pornstache’. In reality, Mendez is crooked, smuggling drugs into the prison and by turns hassling or harassing inmates.

Who stars in Orange is the New Black?

Orange is the New Black’s cast is made up of familiar and new faces. The show has made stars of its cast.

You might have seen the likes of Jason Biggs (American Pie) and Kate Mulgrew (Red, previously Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager) before. Laura Prepon, who plays drug smuggler Alex, was one of the cast members of That 70s Show.  You may recognise Pablo Schreiber, who plays Pornstache, from his role in hit show The Wire. He is also actor Liev Schreiber’s little brother.

[Quiz: Which Orange is the New Black character are you?]

Some of the other cast members are less well-know. Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, is one of the show’s breakout stars, winning both Emmy and SAG awards for her performance. Taryn Manning, who plays Pennsatucky, had been tipped for stardom for years but it is her performance in Orange is the New Black which has made her most recognised.

What is the Orange is the New Black theme tune?

Fittingly, Orange is the New Black’s theme tune is called You’ve Got Time. The track was written for the show by Regina Spektor, an American singer-songwriter.

Watch Orange is the New Black season 1 on Sony Channel, BT TV channel 331 and BT TV Catch-Up.

Photo credits: Jessica Miglio/Netflix, Barbara Nitke/Netflix
Artwork & Supplementary Materials ™ & © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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