Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Orange Is the New Black': Privilege, Interrupted

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Orange Is the New Black': Privilege, Interrupted

Article excerpt

Nancy Botwin, the pot-dealing single mom of Showtime's "Weeds," changed the rules for TV's female protagonists. Now her creator, Jenji Kohan, is back with an even darker, funnier tale of another woman's brush with American criminality.

"Orange Is the New Black" is based on the memoir of Piper Kerman, whose post-college phase as a courier for heroin dealers took a decade to catch up with her. Don't let the flippant title fool you: "Orange" is scary, smart and relevant, and it will make you wonder why no one thought to give the "Oz" formula a dose of estrogen before now.

For Netflix's streaming-only series, Ms. Kerman has been renamed Piper Chapman and brought to life by Taylor Schilling, who starred in the best-forgotten Nicholas Sparks flick "The Lucky One." Here, Ms. Schilling manages to stitch together a likable fish-out-of- water persona from equal parts manic pixie, spoiled idealist and defiant survivor.

On the Brooklyn trust-fund continuum, Chapman is closer to yuppie than to hipster when she is named a co-conspirator in an international heroin ring. She leaves behind Alex (Laura Prepon), the lover who introduced her to crime's adrenaline rush, for a future marketing herb-scented soaps.

Instead of risking trial, she takes a deal for 15 months at Club Fed. It doesn't take long for her to freak out once she's on the inside.

"I'm wearing granny panties and I've only spoken to white people," she babbles at her fiance, Larry, on visiting day. "And you're not supposed to eat the pudding because it's been to Desert Storm."

Not realizing that she's being hazed and starved, Larry (Jason Biggs) tries to cheer her up. "You look great. Your face is all cheekbone-y."

We get to see happier times with Larry, back when they were doing a weeklong lemon juice/cayenne pepper cleanse as a couple. Now, instead of having phone sex, Larry describes heirloom tomatoes and bulk almonds from Whole Foods. …

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