Despite what that idiot from Cracked.com says, Orange is the New Black is quality television, and I’m going to give you four reasons why I feel that way.
1. The Writing
The writing here feels like Weeds before season four-ish (makes sense, since they’re both the brain children of Jenji Kohan). The season finale of the second season of Weeds goes down as perhaps one of, if not the, best episode of television I have ever watched.
That being said, OITNB just completed its second season, we’re anxiously waiting on its third, and the writing is still sharper than ever (though, the whole “Vee” storyline was getting a bit tired, to be frank).
For example, in the next to last episode of season two, there is a major storm. Now, we all know that major storms, particularly rain, almost always signify that something bad is about to happen, whether it’s in film, television, or a work of literature. And we can usually predict what that something bad is. Not here.
There are so many characters and so many interesting storylines that it’s hard to tell just who things are going to go down south for, and really, they’re in prison - how much worse can life get? (Pro tip: Much.) Not many writers can make rain suspenseful anymore, but these do.
Even how they handle the seasons is to be commended. The first season is more about Piper, because we’re seeing prison through her eyes. We can branch out to explore the other characters in season two because prison is now Piper’s home - it’s not all about her anymore.
2. The Characters
It is rare that a show can have a mile-long cast of characters and yet make them so intrinsically different from one another. Each character has been fleshed out with a unique personality and backstory - you know the writers take the time to make each character his or her own separate entity. There are no phoned-in performances here, no cardboard cut-outs - it’s hard to pick a “favorite” because each character has his or her positives and negatives, and you still end up liking characters that are otherwise normally difficult to root for.
3. The Stories
There are some shows, like most of the programs on AMC, that operate at a slow boil. Some of us enjoy that, while it puts others off. OITNB has a knack for making you think that you know everything that’s going on, only to be slow-boiling it beneath you, so that you find out three, five, sometimes even ten episodes later that the person you thought you knew is a complete stranger.
And, on the opposite side of that coin, they also do a great job at solving the “little mysteries” right away, rather than dragging them out for an entire season to the point where no one cares anymore who ratted someone out to the other side. We find out in that one episode, and we’re done. Moving on.
Plus, it’s always refreshing to watch the flashback scenes, not just because we get to learn more about the characters we’ve come to know (and love?), but also because it breaks up the monotony of being in prison all the time by giving us an even balance.
4. Book Promotion
This is genius. We know from watching The Shawshank Redemption that prisons have libraries. What better way to throw a quick pop culture reference into the mix just by putting a well-known book (like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars) into one of the prisoners’ hands? They don’t even have to talk about it.
Like when Red’s reading Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. No one mentions it, but we notice it and smile. And it’s perfect product placement because we don’t wonder how they got there. Between the library and commissary, there’s always a good explanation.