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Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black

Available from today on Netflix

By Phil Harrison
Series one, episode one
Another original comedy-drama commission from Netflix, this time based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about her year in a women’s prison. If Kerman’s book is a serious affair, this adaptation is – at this point at least – a jaunty, almost lighthearted affair.

Kerman is represented by Taylor Schilling’s Piper Chapman, an educated middle-class girl who gets banged up for a drug-related crime in her moderately wild past. The central idea of the series is that Chapman is ‘not the prison type’: her background, expectations and – the implication is – ethnicity would all seem to mitigate against the possibility of her winding up inside. It’s a premise that badly needs to be undercut – being encouraged to empathise with this privileged white girl adrift in a sea of low-expectation miscreants would leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

Still, there are some funny moments and Piper’s relationship with her boyfriend Larry (Jason Biggs) is nicely drawn. There may yet be a little more ambiguity and complexity as the series gets into its stride.

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