'Orange' returns with a new, binge-worthy season

Lorraine Toussaint, as Vee, confronts Samira Wiley, as Poussey, in a scene from Season 2 of "Orange Is the New Black."
Lorraine Toussaint, as Vee, confronts Samira Wiley, as Poussey, in a scene from Season 2 of "Orange Is the New Black."
Posted: June 05, 2014

* ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Season 2 premieres Friday, Netflix.

* JENNIFER FALLS. 10:30 tonight, TV Land.

NETFLIX didn't invent binge-watching, but with the prison drama "Orange Is the New Black" it did give us something to make the bingeing worth it.

Not just because it was so good, which it was, but because making 13 episodes available at once allowed "Orange" to transform itself from a show about the incarceration of one formerly privileged white woman named Piper (Taylor Schilling) to a searing, funny, tragic look at the lives of a dizzying variety of people who share Piper's present circumstances but not her history.

Transformation is possible for any show, but in the appointment-TV model, viewers who might appreciate the changes might have been gone weeks earlier.

As "OITNB" returns on Friday with 13 more episodes, it's past needing to explain itself.

Once again, nothing is as it first seems (especially in the first episode), but it's not because creator Jenji Kohan is writing the women-in-prison version of "The Blacklist."

Lack of access to information is one of the things that separates these women from the data-driven world outside. Sentenced to an environment where cellphones are contraband and everything's not a Google search away, they're forced to deal with what's in front of them, even as we fill in some of the blanks with flashbacks.

Lorraine Toussaint joins the cast as a disruptive figure with a connection to Taystee (Danielle Brooks), and we learn more about a number of characters, including Poussey (Samira Wiley).

Uzo Aduba continues to do dazzling work as Suzanne, the character initially known as "Crazy Eyes," who became one of the show's breakout characters not because she changed but because, with Kohan's help, we did.

TV - or whatever it is we're calling Netflix - doesn't get much better than that.

'Jennifer Falls' flat

Since the advent of "Hot in Cleveland," I've come to think of TV Land as the cable outlet for people who loved a certain kind '80s and '90s sitcom and wished someone would make more.

Tonight, with "Jennifer Falls," it's also reaching out to people who may have missed the past few broadcast TV seasons, when one of Hollywood's responses to a troubled economy was to send a bunch of chastened adults home to their parents.

No matter how many people were living that story, it didn't seem to catch on with viewers, who either rejected (or failed to notice) shows like "GCB," "How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)," "Back in the Game," "$#*! My Dad Says" and "Family Tools."

"Jennifer Falls" probably wouldn't have stood out from that crowd, but now it won't have to.

TV Land's first single-camera comedy stars Jaime Pressly ("My Name Is Earl," "I Hate My Teenage Daughter") as Jennifer Doyle, an investment banker whose problematic personal style - is there any other kind for powerful women on TV? - leads to the loss of her six-figure income and sends her scurrying home to mother (Jessica Walter), with her daughter, Gretchen (Philly native Dylan Gelula), in tow.

If that's not humiliating enough, the only job available is at the bar owned by her brother (Ethan Suplee) and his control-freak wife (Nora Kirkpatrick). Oh, and one of Jennifer's former best friends (Missi Pyle) doesn't want to see her.

Fans of "Arrested Development" may not be able to resist the pilot, where Jeffrey Tambor has an amusing cameo as Jennifer's about-to-be-former boss (and Walter gets to make a Cinco de Mayo joke), and devotees of "Earl" may want to see Pressly and Suplee together again. But even a TV Land show has to be about more than reunions.

Pressly's a sharp comedic actress who doesn't need to play the humiliation game to be funny.

She just needs the right show. "Jennifer Falls" isn't it.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

 

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