Friday, August 23, 2013

How Orange is the New Black is Like Lost

Like some people I was initially skeptical of Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," but I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was.

Over the course of watching it, I realized that it reminded me of another show: "Lost" minus the sci-fi element.

I know it sounds kind of crazy at first, but hear me out.  The shows have similar DNA upon closer inspection.

In my opinion, the aspect that made the first season of "Lost" one of the best TV seasons of all time was story telling through the use of flashbacks.  Much like "Lost," "Orange is the New Black" employs this device to provide background on characters' lives before prison.

It's compelling to learn about characters' lives before they got stuck in this kind of hell and the decisions that led to it.  Not to mention, it adds depth to the characters as more than just inmates.

Miss Claudette's flashback to her life before prison was the most effective one used by "Orange is the New Black."  I'd say more, but I don't won't to ruin the plot for anyone who has not watched it yet.

The two shows also share a similar setting as the prison in "Orange is the New Black" is like the island in "Lost."

Being in prison compares to the island as characters are isolated from the outside world, forced to adapt to unfamiliar/dangerous circumstances, and must form alliances with strangers.  In fact,  Piper  unexpectedly "crashed landed" in prison.

"Lost's" argument of science vs nature is even at play in "Orange is the New Black's" prison, except it takes the form of prison rules vs outside world norms.

Despite prisoners trying to tell Piper otherwise, she doesn't really understand that there is a difference between the two and it gets her into trouble.

You can't reason with a smoke monster nor can you reason with a crazy woman in prison.  Those are just facts.

The last thing these shows have in common are that their lead characters Charlie (Lost) and Piper (Orange is the New Black) are the worst characters.  They both come off as whinny and annoying while the supporting characters propel the respective shows.

Piper is the show's way into the prison world, but her middle-class story is bland compared to characters such as  Taystee, Poussey, Crazy Eyes, and Dara.  They steal scenes, offer richer stories, and present unique point of views that aren't always represented on television.

Taystee and Poussey pretending to talk like middle-class white people is one of the best scenes in the show as not only is it funny, but it mocks half the TV viewing audience.

Kind of an aside here, although one could even argue that Alex or Nickey double as "Orange is the New Black's" Sawyer type character.

Ultimately, "Lost" and "Orange is the New Black" work so well for a simple reason.  They portray compelling characters in difficult and dire situations and that results in great TV.

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