4 Dumb TV Cliches I Hope Orange Is the New Black Avoids
After hints that Netflix's new show could turn out to be a sitcom dud, I ponder potential pitfalls.
July 31, 2013 - 7:00 am
I like to read the comments on my pieces—I don’t have a Ph.D. in “TV rating” or a degree from culinary school—so it’s always helpful to see the perspectives of our readers when I write about food, shows, and living in D.C. I especially appreciate them when I’m starting a new series or topic. Many of the comments and stories give me inspiration for future pieces or force me to see the topic in a new light. This is exactly what happened with the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black. I wrote my first piece on this series last week — laying out the things I liked about the show and qualities I thought made it different than other sitcoms, which would, hopefully, contribute to it becoming a Netflix success. Unfortunately, after a peek at the comments a few days later, I realized that many of you readers had beat me to the punch: 1) you had finished the series and 2) you definitely had things to say about it.
Like I said, I was hoping the show would be as good as House of Cards. Who wants to spend weeks on end watching and analyzing a horrific show? Well, it sounds like I might be in for a few weeks of misery. The majority of the comments I received talked about events in the upcoming episodes (I had only seen episodes 1-3 at that point) — and how I would grow to dislike the main character and the entire premise of the series. Essentially, all the things I was hoping wouldn’t happen were hinted at coming true.
This week I decided to outline what I hope doesn’t happen in Orange Is the New Black before I continue watching. Hopefully, not all my fears will be realized…
1. Following Stereotypes
I am really hoping that Piper doesn’t go back to being a lesbian in prison. She can get out and do whatever she wants — even break off the engagement with Larry, marry her ex-girlfriend, I don’t care — but please, please don’t let her become part of the “prison-is-full-of-lesbians” stereotype. This is so cliché — and it’s predictable. House of Cards is great because it is unpredictable — you were never sure where the story was going. If Orange starts to follow the stereotypical twists and turns of other sitcoms and becomes one of those shows whose entire storyline can be guessed by episode four, I will be disappointed. My life will have been wasted.
2. One-storyline Plot
Following point number one, I hope Piper’s actions in prison don’t somehow mess up her relationship with her fiancé, Larry. We need Larry to be part of the storyline on the outside of Piper’s prison world; otherwise there isn’t much variety going on episode-to-episode to stay interesting. Losing Larry would be a bummer — his own struggles outside of the prison walls could be an interesting story all their own. If we lose Jason Biggs’ character, we might be doomed to “storyline exhaustion,” thanks to Piper’s stupid actions that guarantee her the sole spotlight.
3. Say “No” to Glee 2.0
I responded to a comment on my last piece saying that Orange wasn’t as weird and hokey as Glee. Thanks to other hints on the comments board, what I should have said was Orange isn’t as weird and hokey as Glee—yet. I hope Orange doesn’t become a public service announcement-making show — I stopped watching Glee for this reason. Writers need to realize that not every show needs to have an agenda, or become their soapbox for societal reforms. Just create a good show that entertains us.
4. A Cast of “Fluffy” Villains
Thanks to the flashbacks focusing on the other inmates, the audience is able to see the twisting story-lines that brought the motley cast of supporting characters to prison. However, not every added back-story should be so fluffy.
Sophia is in prison because she used credit cards fraudulently to pay for surgeries to have a sex change. After three episodes, I like Sophia’s character. I find her to be funny and complex — something that this show needs — but does she really need to seem so “innocent” and pathetic although she’s guilty?
With Red, we aren’t 100% sure of what action landed her in prison, but, so far, we feel bad for her and her exclusion from the “Mob Wives Club.” Like Sophia, Red probably isn’t going to be revealed as a hard-core, murdering criminal (although, she could be!). True, not all people in prison are murdering crazies, but come on, do the other supporting characters need to seem so tame and pitiable? This is supposed to be a show focused on prison…
Therefore, I would like to see the introduction of a hard-edge female villain. This role would upend the current status quo where the female characters are portrayed as “misunderstood” and pitiful ladies. Not all crimes are perpetrated due to societal pressure or misunderstanding—like Orange is leading us to believe. (I fear the show could start to resemble a PSA ad…) I hope a dark, complex villain is introduced to shake up the fluffiness of the show–her contrast to naive Piper would make the show more interesting.