Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Orange You Glad You're Not in a Women's Prison?

Last night, I had a panic dream in which a friend of mine was mugged on the street, and I was blamed for it. That alone would have instantly classified this as a nightmare for me, but to make matters worse, I somehow ended up in a maximum security prison for my crime. I woke up in a cold sweat just as I was being locked in my cell, the sound of the creepy prison guard's laughter still ringing in my head.

I can only attribute this to my recent, pre-bedtime viewing of the Netflix Original Series, Orange is the New Black, since aside from one Homeland-induced nightmare last year where Brody was trying to kill me (maybe I should stop watching TV before bed?), most of my REM cycles are pleasantly mundane - I vividly remember a dream from 11th grade where I was just eating a family sized bag of peanut M&M's in my backyard; a few nights ago I dreamed I was sorting my laundry and I found a dollar in my detergent...

I've got a million of 'em, but I digress. Let's get back to the pilot:

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is an upper-class blonde lady who is about to get married to the man of her dreams, played by Jason Biggs (is it just me, or is he kinda hot now?). Too bad she's about to serve 15 months for a crime she committed 10 years ago, in which she picked up a suitcase full of money for her then drug-lord girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon). This plot might seem far-fetched, but it's actually based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, and while I haven't read it yet, I'm really curious to find out how closely the series mirrors her real life experience in jail. While OITNB is centered around a pretty heavy topic, the pilot was funny enough to keep me engaged throughout, and the many flashbacks to Piper's old life provided a nice contrast to all of the sterile, confined prison scenes. Schilling also does some really nice work here as a woman struggling to keep herself together as her whole world turns upside-down. I wouldn't exactly call Piper a relatable character just yet (she's more of a stereotype, at least in the pilot), but in the moments where she really lets herself break down, you can start to see how this rich-fish-out-of-water could develop into a likeable hero.

3 things I really liked:

-Those opening credits! The theme song (created for the series by the amazing Regina Spektor) perfectly captures the suppressed rage and fear behind all of those creepy, staring eyes.

-When I was a kid watching That 70's Show I always thought Donna was the absolute coolest (I know we all love Mila Kunis now, but if you tell me you wanted to be like Jackie, you are a total liar). It's so great to have Laura Prepon back on another series, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of Alex since, *mini SPOILER ALERT* it looks like she's serving her sentence in the same prison as Piper. 

-This show definitely does not sugar-coat the issue of racism in jail - believe me, no one is making friendship bracelets and singing "Ebony and Ivory" here. After Piper's fellow white inmate, Morello (Yael Stone) gives her a toothbrush, telling her that they "look out for their own" and that "it's not racist, it's tribal", Schilling's WTF reaction is pitch perfect.

2 things I really didn't like:

-Hearing the male guard whack off in his office just seemed unnecessary. I'd be happy if that plot point disappeared, but I predict his creepy attraction to her is unfortunately going to be a big part of the series.

-Piper seems way too prison-dumb in this first episode. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't last a day, but I also wouldn't tell the other inmates I read about prison psychology, and if I insulted the inmate/chef and then found out she made me "something special", I'd be extremely suspicious. Nothing could have prepared me for the English muffin with the (WARNING: SUPER GROSS!) used tampon inside, though. Not sure how I kept my dinner down after that one...

While I'm definitely up for watching the next episode, I'm actually surprised that so many other reviewers have binge-watched all 13 in a row - after the pilot I honestly needed some time to decompress. Still, I have to hand it to OITNB: it's invaded my dreams, so props to series creator, Jenji Kohan (Weeds) for making one of my worst fears come to life so vividly (and with her trademark humor). Now to decide whether I want to re-live those fears 12 more times...

Just a few things before I throw out all of my English muffins. They are officially ruined for me.

- In don't-call-me-a-quitter news, I have given up on Under The Dome. But don't worry, Dome-heads! My good friend and Dome-fan, Leah, has volunteered to be my official series correspondent, offering one-sentence recaps for everyone who is still interested in the saga of Chester's Mill.

Leah's Dome Recap for the week of 7/30: "They're still under the dome." Thanks, Leah!

- Daria fans: Check out this amazing - but sadly, fake - Daria live-action movie trailer from College Humor (starring Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation). Kickstarter campaign, anyone?
- I'm a lady who doesn't believe in the idea of guilty pleasures, so I'm not ashamed to admit that I love me some Sex and the City. So does Emily Nussbaum, the author of this great article from the New Yorker: "Difficult Women".

Come back next Wednesday for an in-depth review of the first season of my new favorite show, Orphan Black. Haven't been initiated into the clone-club yet? It's ok - I was late to the party too, but all of the episodes are available to stream on BBC America on demand, so clear your calendar and get watching!

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