The Big Ideas of 2013
BY Michelle Garcia
December 18 2013 1:47 AM ET
Everyone Loved Orange Is the New Black
Who knew that a dramatic comedy set at a women's prison would be on the top of everyone's Netflix list? The same summer that masses of people hunkered down for 13 new episodes of Arrested Development, the unique Fox comedy that Netflix revived seven years after it was initially canceled, viewers also took a chance on a new original series about Piper Chapman, a bisexual fish out of water in a prison in upstate New York played by Taylor Schilling. In the first few moments of the pilot, there were lesbians having sex in the showers, and our protagonist was naked and crying.
And America was hooked.
Through word of mouth, the show became a viral hit chock with internet memes, and the show's actresses soon became beloved. People pined to see Piper and her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon) reconcile their differences, and they rooted for Sophia, played by Laverne Cox, to find appropriate medication and heal the ruptures from her past.
Jenji Kohan's show, inspired by Piper Kerman's memoir, has not only helped increase LGBT visibility with complex and funny story lines, but it proves again that a show featuring queer stories can both be a critical darling and a hit for any network. Earlier this year, Netflix reported that the show was its most watched original so far, suggesting that the audience for the show is on par with successful network and cable shows.
While OITNB could be simply billed as a "lesbian show," it has become a fixture among the streaming TV set, as evidenced whether you were talking to a lesbian couple who planned to dress as Piper and Alex for Halloween or a straight guy who had never known a transgender woman in his life but felt immediate empathy for Sophia.