'Orange is the New Black' season 6 is bingeable, but...

Many surprises abound in the new season of Orange is the New Black but lack of realism causes some problems

Orange is the New Black finally returned to Netflix on July 27 and certainly made many fans of this hit series created by Jenji Kohan happy. Many people, like myself binge watched the entire thing over the weekend, but it leads me to wonder if I had to wait for each new episode, would I still watch it?  The answer is probably not.

This critically acclaimed and fan-favorite show is fun to watch in bursts, but I don't know if I could say that I would be invested in these people enough to wait a week to know what happens next in any given season.  Usually, I will give a show one or two episodes and if I am not hooked, I let it go.  However, with OITNB, only about half of the episodes in any given season are engaging, but I still can't turn away because I want to know what happens.

For those unfamiliar with the show, here is a short summary.

OITNB is a dramedy series based on the memoir by Piper Herman titled Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, that came out in 2010.  The series was created by Jenji Kohan and premiered on Netflix in 2013.  The show follows Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling), who is a privileged middle-class woman sentenced to 15-months in prison for trafficking drug money. The show features about thirty regular costars, each with their own distinct character and back story that are often explored via flashbacks.  We are now in season six.

Now, I wouldn't watch the show at all if it wasn't interesting.  It usually is.  The characters are usually well-developed and it is chock full of surprises.  OITNB is a combination of funny, violent, touching, traumatic, empowering, humiliating and engaging moments both in and out of the prison and in the past and present.

The relationships have an interesting range too within the OITNB universe. There are love stories, familial relationships and coworkers, but really it is the ever-changing relationships between the inmates that make the show compelling.  These women have power struggles, petty fights, strong friendships and most of the women evolve over time.  Those that don't aren't really supposed to.

However...there are three major issues that impact my ability to completely suspend disbelief with this show.

First, most of the correctional officers (guards) are portrayed as either sadistic, corrupt or just mean and a little stupid.  Also, they are depicted as under-trained and unqualified.  What a terrible way to characterize an entire profession?

In contrast, Warden Caputo, in early seasons appeared incredibly creepy and dishonorable, however he evolved over time and now one realizes that his intentions are honorable, in spite of his clumsy presentation. He is the antithesis of the stereotypical sadistic warden.

Next, where is the surveillance?  Now, using a power outage was a good convention to get the cameras out for last season and a few other episodes throughout the series, but no one ever checks the tapes to reveal what really happens between the guards and the inmates? Piscatella was a true sociopath who would have been fired and likely would be behind bars.  In fact, most of the beatings, sexual encounters, scheming and general activities would be recorded.

And finally, there is the issue of medication.  People are not generally denied medication in a prison or jail situation.  In fact, the dedicated staff of these institutions go out of their way to make sure that people get the proper medication and treatment.  This depiction is not what happens and it irresponsible to show that inmates are not getting proper medical treatment.

As a matter of full disclosure, my dad is a clinical psychologist who has worked in prisons and jails in California, so I have a personal perspective on these things.

Now, some things to look forward to this season:  SEMI-SPOILERS AHEAD, but nothing that will give away the ending.

Season five ended with it up in the air as to who will stay together, what will the consequences be for the riot and what happens next.

Some find happy reunions, but a there are many lingering questions when it comes to what happened others we have come to love, pity or sometimes loathe.

A real stand out is new character Daddy, played by Vicci Martinez who many people may remember as being a Top 4 finalist during the first season of The Voice back in 2011.  This character is played with a sexy swagger and is a stand out in a show where most of the characters are interesting.

There are a few other new characters who we are meant to hate and some of those stories work and others don't.

All in all, this season was Okay, but it started out slowly and it wasn't until the last couple of episodes that things picked up momentum. I had to wait, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

Orange is the New Black is Netflix's most-watched original series. It has earned many Emmy and Golden Globe nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and it took home some of those prizes.  It is the first series to score Emmy nominations in both comedy and drama categories. Uzo Aduba won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Suzanne, aka Crazy Eyes.

Orange is the New Black season 6 is now available on Netflix.  The next season has not been announced yet.

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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