'Orange Is the New Black:' Just a Bunch of Gratuitous Sex and Drama or Is it True to Life?
'Orange Is the New Black:' Just a Bunch of Gratuitous Sex and Drama or Is it True to Life?
Christine Petralia
Christine Petralia
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Now that season two of Orange Is the New Black has been released on Netflix, I can safely say that it exceeded all expectations. However, I do have some comparisons when it comes to just how "real" the series is compared to the book of the same name, which is a true story about the writer, Piper Kerman, and her year in prison.

There are a lot of similarities and differences from the show and the book. I do like what the writers of the show did, by taking the concept of a young woman's experience in prison from the book and then going on a completely different path with the Netflix series. For example, the real Piper was not in prison with her former lover. While she does encounter her when she's called to testify against a drug dealer, they do not hate each other and they most certainly do not hook up. Another example is Larry. The real Larry stuck by Piper's side throughout the whole ordeal. At the end of season one, Larry breaks up with Piper. And by the end of season two, he's with her best friend. While I do admire the real life Larry for sticking by Piper throughout her ordeal, I think what the TV series makes for a much better storyline and creates much more conflict.

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Season one we were introduced to Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a WASP who took a few wrong turns in her younger days, which included dating Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) and getting wrapped up in her world of drug smuggling. I wish the series had explored more of Piper's relationship with Alex before prison, as the book did. The first chapter of the book tells Piper's story as a young girl right out of college, unsure of what she's going to do with her life when she meets an older lesbian Alex, who wines and dines her and eventually convinces her to help her with her "business."

Season one also focuses a lot of just Piper, with a sprinkle of the past lives of a few inmates. Season two delves right into the past lives of our favorite inmates, including Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba). The book, however, mentions details of Piper's inmates, it doesn't really go into too much detail with their former lives outside of prison. I have to say that I do love the backstory of each character, even the ones that I didn't really give much thought to, such as Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat), the bank-robbing cancer patient. Season two also gives equal time to each character, including the big boss lady Yvonne, or Vee, (Lorraine Toussaint). Even though it's Piper's story, the way the writers weave in all of the other characters, including the prison guards and wardens, is just fantastic. It leaves you wanting so much more and not bored at all.

Despite not delving into the history between Alex and Piper, I do think Orange is the New Black features just enough of the real-life Piper's experience, such as her flying to Chicago to testify and her learning to navigate life behind bars, to give Kerman's book justice. However, the book is pretty straightforward and vanilla. The author doesn't get into the drama or sex in prison, so one would have to wonder if what is portrayed on television is just to keep people interested. To be honest, while the storyline of Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) having a contest to see who can hook up with the most women was entertaining, if they had left out all the sex and just kept all the drama between the ladies, I'd enjoy the show just as much.

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There are a couple things in the book which I would have liked to see, and perhaps will in season three, such as when the girls in the maintenance/electric shop go out on runs to fix COs homes or when Piper actually gets tons of books and letters from strangers on the outside when Larry sets up a website about her. I'm guessing the latter might not work in the current storyline with Piper and Larry though.

All in all, I think Orange Is the New Black is by far one of the best series I've seen in a long time. One would think with all the characters and storylines that it gets confusing, but it actually just keeps you wanting more in the end. And I have to say, as much as I loved how season one ended with the showdown between Piper and Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), the ending of season two was much, much better.

Orange Is the New Black season 2 is available to stream on Netflix.

(Image courtesy of Netflix) 



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