How ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Changed TV Forever (Column)

Variety | 7/18/2019 | Caroline Framke
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When Netflix debuted “House of Cards” in 2013, it seemed like streaming was going to mimic premium as we already knew it. The premiere of “Orange Is the New Black” five months later ended that notion for good. Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, the show ostensibly followed Piper (played by Taylor Schilling), a bright but naive white woman from Connecticut reeling from the shock of a past mistake that has sent her to prison years later. Soon enough, however, Kohan steered the series in a different direction, pulling the rug out from under its initial premise by widening its scope far beyond Piper to the surrounding inmates, whose experiences looked nothing like her own. “Orange Is the New Black” dove headfirst into the challenge of depicting the interlocking stories of poor, queer, addicted inmates of many races; the women of Litchfield Penitentiary quickly became one of the most inclusive casts TV had ever seen. With pointed flashbacks guiding each episode, the series deepened its characterization of women who rarely appear on-screen at all.

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