Wiggin’ Out about TV

Never again will I wait months to check out shows that more than, let’s say, 20 people have told me to watch.

I’ve always been a fan of Netflix. I can sit down and watch an entire series in a lazy weekend, I don’t have to be glued to my TV for a certain day and time of the week, and I can watch it at my leisure.

Netflix has capitalized on their sudden popularity and ability to bring chain movie rental stores to their knees and chop their heads off. They have smart marketing ideas, such as checking piracy sites to see what shows are the most popular. They’ve gone one step further now – producing their own TV shows, such as “House of Cards,” and they even delighted fans by bringing the fourth season of “Arrested Development.”

And they’ve definitely found a new fan in me with another Netflix-produced show – “Orange is the New Black,” from “Weeds” producer, Jenji Kohan. While I feel “Weeds” was dragged out a little too far, (my love/hate relationship with that show is a whole other TV column!) I absolutely love this show.

Kohan takes the character Piper Kerman, played by Taylor Schilling, who has been sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison in Litchfield, N.Y., for committing a crime 10 years ago when she was caught with her ex-girlfriend’s drug cartel involvment. Her ex-girlfriend, Alex, is played by Laura Prepon, who is just as dryly humorous as she was in “That 70s Show” but with jet black hair and a rocker edge.

In present day, Piper has a fiance, Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs. They are a picture perfect couple at first glance. The show starts off with Piper having a last hoorah with Larry and her friends. Larry is completely supportive of the fact she is going to prison. Piper now co-owns a homemade bath and beauty products line with her best friend and Larry is an aspiring journalist. They both rely heavily on their parents while both pursuing their dreams financially, and throughout the series, you can see that it is causing a strain on the parents on both sides.

Once Piper gets to prison, she is shell-shocked, which is expected. Schilling does a good job of portraying her character as almost pathetic, but the audience sympathizes with her. She’s a self-proclaimed WASP (white Ango-Saxon protestant) thrown into what seems a jungle of angry, nasty women.

Piper struggles to keep up with all the rules of jail life. In the first episodes, she accidentally insults the head chef, Red, who ends up starving her out until she can figure how to get back on her good side.

Piper quickly becomes caught up in the “fish bowl” of jail life, much to dismay of her fiance who can tell whenever they have their visits and phone calls. Piper keeps from Larry the fact that Alex, her ex-girlfriend who got her into this mess in the first place, is actually one of her fellow inmates. And Larry keeps other secrets from her as well, even if some of them are as trivial as Larry keeping up with “Mad Men” when he promised not to watch any of it.

I love this show for the comedic value as well as the insightful view the audience gets into jail life, especially for women. The female inmates are sometimes exploited, mistreated and sexually abused by the male correctional officers, which they can’t seem to do anything about.

In turn the workers bring in contraband for the inmates, or might let them stay on the phone an extra five minutes. Many of the characters stress the fact that “sorry” means nothing, and everything has to do with what you can do for them.

Another feature of the show is the series of flashbacks from many of the inmates, including Piper. It’s a shocking juxtaposition from the lives the characters led outside of the prison and the audience gets a softer view as we delve into the minds of these women who put up a facade of being hard criminals.

There are lot of smaller story lines throughout the show, such as a transgendered woman who loses access to her estrogen pills; a secret, sincere relationship between a young inmate and a new correctional officer; and an inmate being romantically infatuated with Piper, to the point of “marking her territory” outside of Piper’s room in urine. And that’s just some of them!

While season one is over, season two has begun filming. You can watch “Orange is the New Black” at

Bethany Wiegand is a Sun-Gazette Lifestyle and Entertainment reporter. She can be reached at