Review: Orange Is The New Black

I don’t have a good success rate when I review a TV show after just starting to watch it. I loved the first episodes of Once Upon A Time, but then walked away when one of its cleverest conceits was nullified; I loved the first episode of Life On Mars, but it failed to keep my interest; I truly meant to keep watching Elementary after the first three episodes, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep up with it.

So, having learnt nothing, I really enjoyed the first episode of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black. This is Netflix’s third attempt at exclusive digital programming after the excellent House Of Cards and the excruciable Hemlock Grove.

OitnB, an acronym unlikely to catch on, is ostensibly a prison drama, a fish-out-of-water story punctuated by flashbacks to Jason Biggs. If you’re anything like me, that’d be enough to consign watching it to some time after the fourth re-watch of the criminally underrated TV show Threshold. And yet OitnB shines. It has very strong characterisation, immense pathos, charm and the blackest humour. The use of flashbacks as visual punctuation is especially well done; even the insipid Biggs (apparently you can only have a digital only show with at least one semi-recognisable name) is used to good effect to highlight contrasts between the world outside and the world inside.

I’m hooked. I just have to hope I remain so. Digital distribution needs to establish itself, partly so we can move past established actor vehicles and onto true indie productions.