Orange Is the New Breaking Bad

While other prison and police dramas, such as Breaking Bad and Oz, highlight (and glamorize) the nightmarish horrors of the drug war and the American criminal justice system, the new Netflix series Orange Is the New Black offers a contrast. This sad, occasionally funny chronicle of the system's careless arbitrariness is based on the memoir of a blonde twentysomething Smith grad who carried a suitcase full of drug money for an ex-girlfriend and wound up incarcerated for it many years later.

While sentencing disparities, racial inequality, solitary confinement, and the difficulty of life as a parolee all make cameos, the way all the characters-prisoners, guards, spouses, and friends-accept the casual, cruel stupidity of the rules of prison life can be the most infuriating and heartbreaking aspect of the show. The program bears the unmistakable stamp of Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, but has so far managed to avoid some of its predecessor's telenovela excesses.

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