'Orange is the New Black' has lived up to the hype

"Orange is the New Black" cast.

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

I've made my peace with Orange is the New Black.

Let me say off the top, Orange is the New Black – which returns for its second season, Friday, June 6, on Netflix – is really high-quality stuff. But for a while I perceived it to be a bit overrated, in part due to what I refer to as the “online bump.”

There was a time a few years ago, admittedly, when I thought any new show that was on the Internet rather than traditional TV probably was quasi-crappy, or experimental, or flawed in some essential way. Because if they could have secured a TV deal, they would have done so, you know? The web was a fall-back, or at least, that's how I considered it.

Things really have changed in the past couple of years, and I know what one of the big turning points was for me. It was streaming technology. Five years ago, half the time when I tried to access online series, they didn't work for some reason. Not the right computer, not the right browser, not the right software, blah blah blah. You had to update something, then five other things didn't work. It was frustrating. Now (knock on wood) just about everything seems to function with a minimal amount of effort.

In terms of content, though, at this moment in entertainment history we all have a tendency to overrate online-first series. Because we all think we're cool now. When a series launches online, our first thought tends to be positive, that it will be "too hot and edgy for TV" in some way. We've gone from underrating online series to overrating many of them in a very short period of time.

Which circles me back to Orange is the New Black, which stars Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, a woman serving time in prison due to a decade-old drug-trafficking charge. It was fascinating to see her in season one going from someone who didn't fit in to someone who maybe fits in better than even she thought she did (SPOILER ALERT if you haven't yet seen season one, but was there anything more satisfying than watching Piper pound Pennsatucky into a pulp?).

But I had to wonder, even though Orange is the New Black is a really good show, if it were on, say, FX and FX Canada, would it be "just another really good show?"

Because Orange is the New Black originates online on Netflix, does that make it automatically more important than it would be if it were on cable? Is it currently an easier path to becoming a mini-cultural phenomenon online than it is on TV?

To be fair, having rewatched some of season one, and having seen a few episodes of season two, I've backed off in this particular case.

I still believe the “online bump” is a real thing. Not every online series is a gem. But I've concluded this actually is too good a show to be the poster child for my theory.

Online, incarcerated and outrageous, Orange is the New Black has earned its colours.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca


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