Orange is the New Black Season 5: Thumbs Up vs. Thumbs Down

Orange is the New Black season 5 was both an emotional thrill ride and a disappointment. I want to discuss my likes and dislikes about the latest season. This is not a detailed review. There might be a few spoilers along the way. Continue reading “Orange is the New Black Season 5: Thumbs Up vs. Thumbs Down”

Watch This: Trailers and Teasers for The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Just in time for Halloween, Fox is doing a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There is a following for this classic – people who have seen it dozens of times and know every line by heart. How will this remake do with the die-hard fans? Will it convert new viewers who have never seen it to die-hard fans? Continue reading “Watch This: Trailers and Teasers for The Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Orange is the New Black: Finding a Balm for Your Pain

Orange is the New Black season 4 puts viewers through the wringer. Abuse, murder, death, mental illness, surviving rape, corporate greed. It’s dark and horrifying. There are moments of hope, of light. There are ways of dealing. I thought it would good to end my series of posts on the latest season of Orange is the New Black with something brighter. There are spoilers ahead.  Continue reading “Orange is the New Black: Finding a Balm for Your Pain”

Orange is the New Black’s Damning Portrait of For-Profit Prisons

There are a lot of things wrong with the United States of America. The broken justice (injustice) system is one of the worst. In season 4 of Orange is the New Black, the for-profit aspect of that brokenness is explored in damning detail. Litchfield, a minimum security women’s prison, is turned into a battlefield with corporate greed directing the battle. There are spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen all of season 4. Continue reading “Orange is the New Black’s Damning Portrait of For-Profit Prisons”

My Favorite Prospects for the New TV Season

I’m watching the news about new TV shows for the upcoming season. A few have caught my eye as hopeful prospects. These series have women in leading roles, or women I like in supporting roles. These are the shows I’ll watch for sure. There may be others that I’ll watch as well, but these are my favorites so far. Continue reading “My Favorite Prospects for the New TV Season”

Transparent Season 2 Episode 1: Let the Pfeffermans Begin

Transparent gave Amazon Prime members an early preview with the release of season 2, episode 1 yesterday. The remainer of the season will be available on December 11.

I don’t plan to review or recap each episode individually, but I couldn’t resist commenting on the early release episode 1. I’ll write about the season as a whole after it releases.

Transparent season 2 begins with Sarah (Amy Landecker) and Tammy’s (Melora Hardin) wedding. It’s just as crazy and noisy as the preview you’ve probably seen led you to believe. Continue reading “Transparent Season 2 Episode 1: Let the Pfeffermans Begin”

Brilliant Interview with Transparent’s Jill Soloway

Watch this brilliant and wide-ranging discussion between Transparent creator Jill Soloway and HuffPostLive host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. There is much in the questions and answers that is culturally important. Listening can help even the most slow to change individuals understand what the T in LGBT is about.

The conversation, of course, takes in season 2 of Transparent, but it is bigger than that. There’s talk about secrets and families and feminism and playing and many infrequently discussed transgender issues.

Regarding Transparent, Jill Soloway said, “Now that the bubble wrap is off, it’s time for the whole family to transition.” You get an idea of what that means to Soloway as the child of a transgender parent, and to the people creating and playing in the TV series Transparent.

I thought Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani did an excellent job with her questions. With help from Transparent, Jill Soloway, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and many others, we’ve come a long way in a short time in learning how to talk about transgender issues.

It’s worth your 30 minutes.

Review: Grandma

Grandma stars Lily Tomlin as Elle. The entire story takes place in one day. It starts when Elle breaks up with her girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer). Then Elle’s granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) unexpectedly shows up needing $600 before sundown.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Grandma”

Watch This: Trailer for Grandma

Grandma stars Lily Tomlin, which is all anyone needs to know before laying their money down at a theater box office. The film release date is August 21.

Tomlin plays Elle Reid, who just lost her longtime partner, Val. Her 18 year old granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) appears one day asking for help. The two embark on a money gathering journey together which is mind expanding for both of them. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for Grandma”

3 Themes in Season 3 of Orange is the New Black

Season 3 of Orange is the New Black returns again and again to several themes. My big 3 are the difficulties of maintaining a family while in prison, the need for some sort of spiritual hope, and the need for love.

If you haven’t watched all of season 3 yet, there are spoilers ahead.

Parents in Prison

Elizabeth Rodriguez and Dascha Polanco in Orange is the New Black

Pregnant prisoner Dayanara Diaz (Dascha Polanco) struggled for most of the season with what to do with her baby. Her mother Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is in prison, too. Aleida is a terrible parent – the worst! – but she tries to guide Daya to a good decision.

Daya hopes the baby’s father, Correctional Officer John Bennett (Matt McGorry), will step up and take the baby, but Bennett isn’t up to the challenge.

Daya reported another Correctional Officer, the horrible “Pornstache” (Pablo Schreiber) as the rapist who got her pregnant. Now she’s living with the lie.

Mary Steenberger in Orange is the New Black

Pornstache’s mother Delia (Mary Steenburgen) wants to adopt the child. Alida loves this idea because it means money. Even after Daya tells Delia the truth about whose baby it is, Delia wants it. Daya wobbles back and forth between wanting to give her baby to Delia and wanting to keep it in the family. The decision she finally makes feels right, but ends in disaster.

In other story lines about families, the character Maria (Jessica Pimentel) is dealt a painful parenting blow from her little girl’s father. Gloria (Selenis Leyva) struggles to keep her teen on the straight and narrow. Sophia (Laverne Cox) has some especially hard parenting problems.

The fact is, most women in prison have children, over half of them under the age of 18. Because of changes in sentencing laws during the war on drugs, the number of parents of minor children in prison increased by 79% between 1991 and 2007. Orange is the New Black can’t take us through story lines about the long term effects of so many mothers being locked away, so many broken families, but the series does its best to bring the problem to the front.

Think about Big Boo’s (Lea DeLaria) comments on the book Freakonomics about the number of unwanted children being reduced by Roe vs. Wade resulting in fewer neglected and abused children turning to crime 20 years later. Flip that on its head and ask yourself what the result of harsh drug sentencing laws that sent thousands of mothers to prison for minor drug crimes will be in 20 years.

Faith & Religion

Annie Golden as Norma annoints an inmate played by Danielle Herbert.

Norma (Annie Golden) is at the center of one of the crazy rumor-driven stories in the prison. Some of the prisoners decide she is holy. Since she doesn’t speak, she simply smiles and pats them on the shoulder when they suggest this. They think she’s blessing them, and eventually she starts enjoying the attention and begins to act like the guru she followed as a younger woman. Everyone wants something to hang on to, some spiritual hope, and Norma is it for the moment.

A second plot line around religion involves the discovery that if you ask for a kosher meal, you get better food. Many of the inmates start asking for kosher food. Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) wants to learn enough about being Jewish to pass the test when they ask her why she should be eating kosher.

Cindy starts off on her Jewish experience watching Woody Allen movies but soon turns to an actual study of the faith. By the last episode, she has been accepted as Jewish by other Jews and even experiences a mikveh, or total immersion in water, as a symbol of her new identity as a Jew.

The Need for Love

Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon in a scene from Orange is the New Black

Was it love that made Piper (Taylor Schilling) rat on Alex (Laura Prepon) in season 2, so she would be back in Litchfield Prison in season 3? Whatever the case, they reunite with hate-sex that involves lots of slapping, shoving and biting. Piper eventually asks Alex to be her official girlfriend. Alex says yes. Then the new inmate Stella (Ruby Rose) catches Piper’s eye and official girlfriends don’t seem so important.

Uzo Aduba and Emily Althaus in Orange is the New Black

They had to burn all the books because of bedbugs. Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) fills the gap in reading material when she writes crazy sci-fi porn and passes it around the prison. She gets fans! She has readers! Prisoners are desperate for any kind of love and/or romance they can find, and Suzanne provides them with a semblance of a love story. One fan in particular, Maureen (Emily Althaus), really wants to connect with her idol Crazy Eyes. Suzanne doesn’t know how to act around the idea of having a real girlfriend, not a dandelion. In the last episode, Suzanne and Maureen make tentative but thrilling contact.

Samira Wiley and Kimiko Glenn in a scene from Orange is the New Black

Poussey (Samira Wiley) is so lonely and love-starved that she stays drunk on her homebrew most of season 3. Soso (Kimiko Glenn) is lonely, rejected, friendless, and depressed most of season 3.  Something happens that brings these two closer and may be the much needed relationship they both lack.

The loyalties, the friendships, the “families” that form inside prison help people retain their sanity. Maria points out in the first episode, “Mother’s Day,” once people get released, they forget their prison friends. Yet, while inside, the need to feel connected, to be seen and understood by at least one other human being, does not go away. Crazy Eyes even says it out loud, “People need love.”

In addition to this big 3 list, season 3 of Orange is the New Black also deals with the idea of for-profit prisons and the lack of mental health care for inmates. It does all this while still managing to be funny, character driven drama of the highest order. It’s changing American culture, one story at a time.

Note: This post was syndicated at BlogHer.com.