Orange Is The New Black Is The New Weeds

If you are a Netflix subscriber and you haven’t yet made it through the season of “Orange Is The New Black,” you’re wasting your $8 a month. Seriously. Cancel your subscription, then take $8 out of your wallet and go flush it down in your toilet. That’s what it’s like if you have the Netflix and you’re not through “Orange” yet.

Sometimes, when a successful showrunner moves to the follow-up project from the smash hit that made them known as a wunderkind, bad things happen. David E. Kelley got progressively loonier until he’s now with “Harry’s Law,” I guess, is that still on the air? Aaron Sorkin went the other way, erring too much in The Newsroom toward ponderous to be enjoyable. It can be a worry when a successful writer marches toward a new project. But from “Weeds” to “Orange Is The New Black,” you may trust that Jenji Kohan has not lost one whit of her fantastic sensibility.

Having not read Piper Kerman’s book, I don’t know how custom-cut the stories therein were for the show, but Piper certainly seems like a perfect fit for Kohan; the WASPy suburbanite woman as fish-out-of-water, as being one who thrives on the razor’s edge somewhat, as perpetually quite having it together as a result, and yet as a crafty, and sometimes explosive, survivor, yet not without an inevitable downward trajectory as a cost. Yesh, the similarities are uncanny between Nancy “Pants” Botwin and our new friend Piper Chapman.

But Chapman’s character is necessarily subdued by a brilliant cast of characters who are there ostensibly to represent the faces of the terrifying reality one faces with a 15-month stint in prison but eventually to become just as rich, vibrant, and complicated a bunch as were the Botwin clan and allies.

Pay close attention to Uzo Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (pictured, center). Know as you watch that this actress is an accomplished performer in musical comedy (Godspell). Then watch as Suzanne Warren evolves. I mean, all of these performances are like you might have come to expect if you’re a hard-core “Weeds” watcher (and, if you are, you’ll note a number of actors did carry over from that series). But Aduba is one to watch here.

Regardless of how good the ensemble, the real star is Jenji Kohan’s perfect pitch. In the land of creative minds in television, nobody skates the line between the funny and the white-knuckling drama better than does she. This is stormy comedy at its finest and should not be missed.

And blasted, now we have to wait for season two. Though, I’m mighty glad it’s coming.

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