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Piper who? Orange is the New Black returns for a third season

Uzo Aduba as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren
Uzo Aduba plays Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

On Wednesday night, at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, the folks at Netflix Canada held a screening of the first two episodes of the new season of Orange is the New Black. The female prison series begins its third season June 12.

Based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, the series is one of those cable shows that gets lots of critical respect but isn’t often mentioned in the same hushed tones as the Big Three – that is, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. Maybe because it’s about women?

Who knows. But that seems to be the target audience, at least, judging by the folks invited to the screening – mommybloggers, and me. (I exaggerate, for effect.) That’s okay though – I think the series is great, no matter who it’s being pitched to.

I base my opinion on the first season. I haven’t gotten around to watching the second season yet, but from what I saw in the screening room last night, it’s my loss. As has been pointed out, one of the great things about the show is that it depicts people that otherwise rarely get noticed in TV’s wasteland of lawyers, doctors and cops. The characters in Orange is the New Black are women (and the occasional male prison employee) from a variety of backgrounds, though mostly on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

(In my jetlag + cocktail haze, I referred to it at one point last night as the anti-Entourage, another HBO exercise in male-bonding.)

And as the series has progressed, the residents of fictional Litchfield Penitentiary have all grown in depth, not just the protagonist, the Piper Kerman character (here named Piper Chapman, and played by Taylor Schilling). It’s not that Chapman/Kerman’s story isn’t interesting, but show creator Jenji Kohan has realized that the well-off white lady was best used to draw the audience into the series, and that the real vein of storytelling richness runs in the backgrounds and relationships of the formerly secondary characters.

Now, it’s anyone’s show – even Crazy Eyes’.

Perhaps, especially Crazy Eyes’.

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