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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Good News Everyone!

Orange is the New Black Has More Successful Debut Than Arrested Development


Orange is the New Black crossed my radar very close to its release, less than three days before its entire season premiered on Netflix, and for somebody whose job it is to keep tabs on this kind of thing, that was unusual and spoke of a lackluster PR campaign. It sounded like the beginning of an old story: a creator determined to bring the diverse stories of a group of black, brown, gay, trans*, old (and other adjectives that make them a hard sell to studios) women to the small screen, manages to get a show into production at an unorthodox outlet, show is great but due to lack of confidence in the concept nobody ever hears about it except folks who are starving for those stories in the first place for very personal reasons.

So imagine my surprise when Netflix announces that in the “opening week” of Orange is the New Black the show accrued more viewers, for more hours, than the fourth season of Arrested Development.

That’s right, a show with barely any marketing push behind it, and featuring a groundbreakingly diverse cast, has managed to get an edge over one of the most anticipated television events of the summer. From All Things D, summarizing an official Netflix earnings call:

Every time Netflix has rolled out a new show this year, its first-week ratings improved on the previous show.

That is: “Arrested Development” did better in its first week than “House of Cards” did in its first week, both in terms of viewer numbers and hours viewed. That isn’t a huge surprise, because “House of Cards” was a new show, and “Arrested Development” was a reboot of a series with a big fan base.

But “Orange Is the New Black,” which debuted earlier this month, did better than any other show Netflix has released.

If you’re a regular reader of the site you should know this already, but I think it deserves clarifying: this is not surprising to me because I believe that women’s stories are inherently less successful than otherwise. It’s surprising to me because a lack of confidence in the ability of stories about women to draw an audience often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that prevents them from receiving the same kind of advertising push, which in turn leads them to reach a smaller audience, which in turn leads to a lack of confidence in the ability of stories about wo – you get the idea. It’s a very pleasant surprise.

I’ve only watched three episodes of Orange is the New Black, and while I have at least one problem with the show so far… I’ve also only watched three episodes. And it might just be because I have a long standing obsession with stories about the Russian mob and happen to be in the middle of watching Star Trek: Voyager for the first time, but I simply cannot get enough of Kate Mulgrew‘s hardened Russian lifer who runs the kitchen and therefore the entirety of the inmate culture and attempts to starve the main character for the crime of insulting her cooking. Not to mention Laverne Cox‘s Sophia Burset, the rare trans* character who is not a one episode wonder, or Laura Prepon‘s lesbian international drug cartel runner Alex Vause.

And now that I’ve gotten through this entire article without accidentally calling the show Orphan is the New Black, have you checked out Orange is the New Black?

(All Things D via Pajiba.)

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  • http://www.widdershinscomic.com/ Kate A

    One of those rare shows where it’s actually very difficult to pick a favourite character because they all shine.

  • http://arewerobots.libsyn.com/ DarthBetty

    One thing that really bugs me is it has 2 stars on Netflix Instant. BULLCRAP.

    So glad to see the mary sue covering this show

  • Anonymous

    When have you ever seen a show not only with this many women, but this DIVERSITY of women? Black women. LGBTQ women. Women of all different sizes and body types. It’s wonderful.
    And it sort of highlights how deficient most of TV is with this when it took a straight-to-Netflix show about prison of all places to break the mold. Because prior to that most TV show’s idea of female diversity seemed to be a blonde AND a brunette.

  • Nat

    This is why Netflix needs to be supported. An inexpensive and great home that’s growing for original content and content that doesn’t do well on regular television. I mean didn’t FNL find a home to end on DirectTV? I just wish we could have all this content in one place (Like how Justified is only offered on Amazon Instant and I’m not paying for that when I have Netflix already).

  • http://re-becca.org/ Rebecca Turner

    Hmm 2 stars? I see “Average of 381,563 ratings: 4.5 stars”

  • Anonymous

    It’s the best Netflix show so far so its success is well-deserved.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be honest and say that I, at first, was irritated over this show. The first episode didn’t really sit well with me. I love Kohen’s stuff but I think after Weeds I got a little too burned off of the whole Well Off White Female suddenly dealing with the hardness and cultural class of a lot of Minorities who are involved in a harder lifestyle. HOWEVER, the second episode on had my hooked. I was much much much happier to see that there was way more focus on the other convicts than Chapman because, I’ll be honest, I don’t care about her at all. Everyone else, though? UNF. SO MUCH LOVE FOR THEM. I honestly can’t even pick a favorite out of everyone I’ve seen so far (on episode 8? 9? Can’t remember) because the diversity is just so wonderful.

    Also the Chicken episode is hilarious.

  • http://arewerobots.libsyn.com/ DarthBetty

    Oh wow good! When I first started watching, it had a severely low rating.

  • http://arewerobots.libsyn.com/ DarthBetty

    I take Chapman as an irritating satire that pushes the story along. At least she is learning more about the people she would have normally not associated herself with.(that’s just what I gather from her character) Her stereotype is so funny to me. I totally understand what you mean though.

  • April Tara

    You must not follow Netflix on Twitter because this was ALL they posted about for the past few months, to the point where I was reluctant to watch it because I was tired of Netflix going on about it rather than focusing on adding more movies and TV shows.

    Like others have said, I can’t even pick a favorite character. I love Red, I love Crazy Eyes, I love Sophia…and I can’t wait for a second season to learn more about them. The writing and the acting are all stellar. I’m on my second viewing of the entire season.

  • WonderScott

    Such an amazing show and stories-glad to see it did so well. Brava to Jenji Kohan. I watched it in its entirety over the course of 2 weeks.

    It’s a rare show that I’m into all the characters and don’t find one particular character story arc more fulfilling than another.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen ads about this show for weeks, and actually got really sick of hearing about it. Maybe it had way more marketing on Canadian cable?

  • athenia45

    I put this show on my must see list because of Weeds/Jenji Kohan, but damn, it’s my boyfriend who is majorly passionate about it! And he probably would have never watched it if I hadn’t suggested it.

  • Anonymous

    I know she’s meant to be a bit of a satire but so far in the progress I’ve made in the series, I can foresee me not liking her character at all. The way she’s acting in the slightly later episodes gives me a feeling that I’m going to be completely over her very very soon.

  • Carly Hunter

    This show is addicting watched the whole season in 2 days and now I want more

  • Guymelef

    I love love LOVED this show. So fantastic to watch a show with such a female-majority cast, and of such diversity. As someone else has noted, it is also great that it gives a lot of screen-time to characters other than Chapman, and building on characters who were initially introduced as mere stereotypes and caricatures. It’s such an accessible show, I’m not that surprised it did better than House of Cards, or indeed, Arrested Development. I love AD but it may not be all that accessible to newcomers or those unfamiliar with the show’s format. For me, AD requires a certain induction period into its humour. At least, that has been my experience when showing it to friends and boyfriends.

  • Ryan Colson

    What is OP’s problem with the show?
    I just finished it. It’s pretty good and I dig the lack of white washing, but at the same time all the lesbian stuff going on is pretty whitewashed, which is kinda funny.
    I have to say I think, while all the characters shine and are pretty compelling, holy cow, every person on the show except, like, 5 people, are totally broken assholes on one level or another, which makes for compelling stories when you get into them (which is kinda funny to me because one of my friends loves the show’s messed up characters, but dislikes John Winchester off Supernatural for being written as such a terrible person in her view).

    Looking forward to the next season!

  • Guymelef

    That’s weird because Justified is available on Irish Netflix. Same for Dexter and a few other shows that aren’t available on the US version.

  • http://www.tinypinkrobots.com/ Rori

    I think I enjoy it most for how it looks (cast). The acting is great and the writing is usually good (though the episode with the track star’s backstory fell flat as a pancake for me). Piper & her fiancé are annoying as all get out. I had a real problem at first trying to figure out whether I was *supposed* to like them or not. When I just let go of that and told myself, no, I’m not supposed to, I started enjoying the show a lot :D (I still have two episodes to go, hopefully that stands).

    But it is a good show, and I recommend it. And I REALLY hope it gets other “non-traditional” shows, especially ones with majority minority casts, a better chance.

  • http://twitter.com/LibrarianMarian Marian Librarian

    As for publicity, I watch quite a lot of stuff on “Blip.tv” and “Orange” was the only thing the advertised for the last month. I think it was a good marketing strategy to target people who watch Internet-only series.

  • Nat

    Dexter was available on Netflix a couple years ago but it might’ve poofed with a contract experiation.

  • Anonymous

    I’m uncomfortable with the extent to which the first three episodes paint “having a gay sexual relationship” as the worst thing that could happen to Piper in prison, which seemed odd to me because the show establishes her as bisexual. (Although absolutely no one mentions bisexuality in the context of her identity.) Characters don’t even frame the possibility of rape as the worst thing, just the idea that she’d have sex with a woman, and a lot of comedy is made out of Piper accidentally becoming the object of desire of a woman with clear problems with boundaries.

    THAT SAID, I’ve only watched three episodes so far, I imagine an episode focused on the character primarily known as “Crazy Eyes” could do a lot to clear this up. Also many of the characters painting lesbian sex, even if consensual, as the worst thing that could happen to her in prison aren’t exactly the “good guys” in so far as the show has any (and at least some of them are Piper’s middle class straight white friends). So far this framing of lesbian sex really seems to clash with the nuanced ways the show treats other aspects of its characters, so I assume it starts to push back against what it’s set up soon, but I’m jaded enough to hedge my bets against disappointment.

  • Hollyanna

    I don’t think it will bother me if I begin to hate her. I dislike her already. But I like the idea of hating the protagonist. It works in a show like this, and Jenji Kohan knows how to do it.

  • Melynda

    I haven’t started this show yet, mostly because I can only binge watch so many things at a time (working on ST: Voyager right now… almost done) so Captain Janeway, I mean Kate Mulgrew, is a draw for me. lol

  • Hollyanna

    I think I started watching it at about 9pm one night and finished it at 1pm the next day. :)

  • Hollyanna

    I attributed most of that feeling to Healy, who is later accused of having a weird obsession with lesbian sex.

  • ampersands

    I will only say that the rest of the season really subverts that expectation (and that the whole first season starts by setting up expectations of what show it’s going to be–fish out of water, white girl as protagonist–and basically makes a point of subverting all of that).

  • Caitlin

    I haven’t watched this yet, but I first heard of it a few days ago from a dude on my facebook who talked about binge watching it this weekend. Which must totally be my imagination, because dudes don’t watch shows about women, AMIRITE?

  • http://angrynerdgirl.net/ Jessi03

    Me, too. Well, it helped that I was home sick from work, but still. I need Season 2 pronto.

  • Anonymous

    Oh no, no, hating her is not by any means going to detract my attachment to the rest of the show/characters. I’m just finding myself in those situations where I kind of want to just shoo her off screen and pay more attention to err’body else.

  • Hollyanna

    Agreed!

  • samsonite123

    I live in the US, and I saw a lot of promotion for the show all over the internet and on TV for many weeks leading up to its. The author must have been living under a rock because there was a huge marketing push from Netflix for this show. They had a great deal of confidence in it from the get-go.

  • Ryan Colson

    I kinda like ol’ ‘Crazy Eyes’ in the show.
    The lesbian = bad thing did seem pretty strange considering Piper’s past. I wonder if the show is going to continue longer than it could, I know “Real Piper” is big on the show’s creative team, and I kind of want to read her book now, but I read a couple of reviews saying the show’s far better than the book, so who knows?

  • odango atama

    Good to see how Twitter and a media company can work together. Call me backwards, but I see so much of “today on social media” segments that I laugh because it’s already old news.

  • odango atama

    BTW, love your name.

  • Anonymous

    2 stars? Is that split between the people who stopped after the first episode (1 star) and subsequent episodes (5)?

  • Anonymous

    It’s AWESOME, Nicky is my favorite character. So happy to watch a show with so many women. Also, the intro song gets stuck in my head a lot.

    ~And you’ve got, time….~

  • Gary Keyes

    Not shocking. I was surprised how much I fell in love with this “little” show. The central cast is wonderful (Kate Mulgrew is astounding and unrecognizable), however, it’s the fantastic surrounding Women of Color that really had me watching. They’re all phenomenal and most unknown! I can’t wait for the 2nd season!

  • Gary Keyes

    Not shocking. I was surprised how much I fell in love with this “little” show. The central cast is wonderful (Kate Mulgrew is astounding and unrecognizable), however, it’s the fantastic surrounding Women of Color that really had me watching. They’re all phenomenal and most unknown! I can’t wait for the 2nd season!

  • Gary Keyes

    Absolutely!

  • Gary Keyes

    Same here!

  • Gary Keyes

    Same here!

  • Gary Keyes

    The actress who plays Suzanne (Crazy Eyes) is wonderful! She better get an Emmy out of this or…THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY!

  • Gary Keyes

    The actress who plays Suzanne (Crazy Eyes) is wonderful! She better get an Emmy out of this or…THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY!

  • Gary Keyes

    You won’t recognize the Captain. She is wonderful–I bet she doesn’t miss that chair at all!

  • Anonymous

    I would hope that part of the reason that OitNB had a more successful debut than Arrested Development’s 4th season is that people are starting to realize that AD is just using the same theme of “Only sane, compassionate man deals with selfish, stupid family” and tire of it.

    It took me a bit to get around to checking out OitNB, but once I did, I was hooked (even considering looking for a torrent while my netflix account was stalled due to lack of bank monies). I was floored when I found that Sophia Burset was actually played by a transwoman.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I’ve actually really liked how matter-of-fact most of the characters treat women having sex with each other and especially Sophia’s identity. When people are dismissive of her it’s clearly shown in a negative light. I also just love the acting from everyone. And I have the biggest crush on Natasha Lyonne.

  • Anonymous

    Also Miss Claudette!

  • http://allirense.com/ Alli

    The stars you usually see on Netflix are how much Netflix thinks you’re going to like the particular show or movie, not the average rating. So it probably means Netflix’s algorithm was somehow off! I think it only showed three stars for me, but I loved it.

  • Anonymous

    Meh. I tried it, didn’t love it. It’s too much of a big fat comedy, making too much use of stereotypes at times, then taking itself too seriously when they take a downturn into big fat drama when the season needs to end on a cliffy.

    Kate Mulgrew makes it watchable but as far as lady jails go, I’ll stick with Wentworth, thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Diversity is fine. What would be better is if they treated those characters as a little more than token “diverse” characters. Example: the very stereotypical hostile overweight butch who kind remains very stereotypical throughout, even after she becomes kinda part of the blonde wasp’s entourage. Or how most black and latino characters remain unexplored by the end of the season, besides Miss Claudette.

    Diversity is a good start but it’s not everything.

  • Anonymous

    Nah, she’s way too secondary. I don’t even think they’ll submit her for supporting. She’s good, she’s a stage actress, even did some Shakespeare a while back.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the OP is just not buying into the hype and the cutesy?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe that’s why Laura Prepon is playing a lesbian. She’s a scientologist and we all know what they think about homosexuality and how it makes you impure.