Don’t know your Crazy Eyes from your Big Boo? In that case, we sentence you to 13 hours of intense TV watching. With the three-Emmy-Award-winning first season of Orange is the New Black being aired on Sony Channel, it’s the perfect time to get familiar with TV’s favourite jailbirds. Here are seven reasons you need to see this ground-breaking drama, the most-watched Netflix original series ever made.
1. It’ll take you out of your comfort zone
Get up, go to work, come home, watch TV – most people’s average day doesn’t include dodging brawls in the cafeteria or fashioning a weapon from a toothbrush. Well, OITNB’s main character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), is an average, middle class woman totally unprepared for prison life, and so the perfect plot device to guide innocents like us through the suffocating, strange and violent world of prison.
2. Women get the spotlight, for once
Even in 2017, there’s a worrying number of TV shows and films that fail the Bechdel test. This measure of gender inequality asks whether any work of fiction has two named female characters that talk to one another about something other than a man. OITNB blows Bechdel out of the water, with a predominantly female ensemble cast creating complex and multi-layered storylines. You won’t miss the boys, we promise.
3. The women look like women, not models
Young and old; black, white, Asian and Latina; fat and skinny; wrinkled, scarred and freckled – the diverse OITNB cast stands in stark contrast to the slim, WASPy norm that dominates almost all other TV shows. It’s like all the token ‘other’ characters have clubbed together and started their own show. That’s not to say it doesn’t feature racism, sexism and homophobia, but it’s in the opinions of the characters, not the bias of the casting director.
4. It presents sexuality and identity in all its forms
In TV world, where we’re used to seeing only the occasional Gay Best Friend, OITNB has been radical in presenting queer and transgender characters in a matter-of-fact way. It explores their backstories and gives them identities that take into account, but aren’t entirely reliant on, their sexuality. And transgender prison hairdresser Sophia is played by transgender actor Laverne Cox, rather than a cisgender actor – a rarity in TV terms.
5. It’s very funny
Dark humour is the best, and OITNB doesn’t shy away from laughing at everything. There are funny situations, hilarious one-liners and even some great goofball physical humour. Google ‘Edward Pizzahands’ if you don’t believe us.
6. You won’t recognise most of the cast
So many series are vehicles for a particular star and, despite their acting talents, you can never quite lose yourself in the characters. OITNB is mostly cast with unknowns, but really, really good unknowns. This is one of those shows where watching it will make you a whole bunch of new friends. Funny, crazy, odd and criminal ones, mind, but you’ll feel as if you’ve known them forever.
7. You’ll never get bored
Season one is just the start. It’s the most plot-driven and centralised of all the series, introducing Piper and allowing us to adjust to prison life with her. But each progressive series spirals out to create an entire universe of characters, all with their own history. A villain in one story can be a hero in the next. There’s no covering the same old ground, or having to create increasingly ridiculous plot devices to keep the series going. Start your stretch now and we promise you won’t be pleading for parole.
Orange is the New Black starts at 9pm on Wednesday April 19, on Sony Channel, BT channel 331