While reviews for “House of Cards,” “Hemlock Grove” and the rebooted “Arrested Development” range from hedged-but-positive to absolutely lacerating, “Orange is the New Black” is the first of Netflix' original programming ventures to receive unqualified raves. The vibes were so strong for the series that Netflix renewed “Orange” for a second season before the first season went live on Thursday.
“Orange is the New Black,” based on the Piper Kerman memoir about her stay in prison after a lifetime of privilege, is the latest project from Jenji Kohan, the creator of “Weeds.” That previous show ran for eight seasons on Showtime, but Kohan chose to go with a streaming service, and under that model, all 13 episodes jump into the stream at once, allowing for either careful, methodical watching in small doses or the full, gluttonous consumption in one long, bleary-eyed night.
Kohan told the entertainment website Hitfix that the new paradigm can hurt a little from a creative standpoint, but it's good to be out front on the new way of rolling out programming.
“As a glutton, the idea of instant gratification is very satisfying, but I do miss that sense of anticipation for the next one,” Kohan told Hitfix' Daniel Feinberg. “As a creator, you spend a year of your life doing this and someone watches it all in a night and it's like, ‘Gulp. It's all gone. Are you gonna make more?' But I really think this is the future. This is actually the present for my children. This is how people watch TV and will do so more in the future.”
But “Orange” could mark a turning point in how the public perceives original streaming series. Reception for “House of Cards” in February was positive but suffused with a kind of wide-eyed wonder about how it was entering people's living rooms. Viewers had difficulty wrapping their heads around a quality series appearing on Netflix without making a first stop at AMC or FX or the BBC or Showtime. They reacted as if they were watching a dog do someone's taxes, amazed that this could happen in our modern world.
Now, the novelty is starting to wear off on the idea of original programming. Having watched the first of the 13 episodes, it's clear that “Orange is the New Black” is good enough to work on premium cable, and this level of programming continues, Netflix could be the new HBO.