Orange Is the New Black Wins Hearts and Minds
It’s funny, it’s interesting, and it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors: it’s no wonder the commentariat is going absolutely nuts over Orange Is the New Black. Renewed for a second season before it even debuted on Netflix this week, Orange is a worthy addition to the streaming service’s ever-expanding creative output (which the Emmys saw fit to shower with nominations yesterday). Piper Chapman makes for a solid protagonist as a bougie white woman packed off to prison for a decade-old drug crime, but it’s the ensemble cast that really makes this show. There’s Red, the Russian cook; Nichols, the junkie lesbian; and Sophia, a transgender woman struggling with some serious guilt. All are portrayed with humor, empathy, and surprising intelligence. If you haven’t binge-watched this one yet, do.
Cassie Is Back and Less Manic Pixieish Than Ever
Skins Pure is far less melodramatic than Skins Fire, and it’s all the better for it. Cassie’s not involved in a high-stakes game of sex, money, and power like Effy; she’s just trying to make it work as a waitress in a drab London café after her inevitable breakup with Sid brings her back from America. Add in a love triangle with two coworkers, a slightly unstable struggling actress for a roommate and a mysterious, stalker-y set of photos, and you’ve got a quietly forceful drama that’s a return to Skins‘ top form. There’s still sex and drugs, of course, but they’re afterthoughts to a brand-new set of believable, fleshed-out characters and an older version of Cassie that feels like a logical extension of the girl she used to be. No need for a cancer plot line here.
Suits Is Back, Plus Catelyn Stark
Screw the prestige dramas — summer is for fun television, and nothing’s more fun than the sexy lawyers of Pearson Hardman (now Pearson Darby) and their never-ending power plays. Some of the series’ longest-standing alliances have been dissolved, from Mike and Harvey to Harvey and Jessica, so now it’s every man for himself. And, of course, there are this season’s two big guest stars, also known as Varys and Catelyn from Game of Thrones. The witty banter is as sharp and the namesake suits as well-fitting as ever, and we couldn’t be more excited to watch a completely unrealistic portrayal of what it’s like to be in law.
The Newsroom Returns to Infuriate Journalists Everywhere
Smugly wielded hindsight, a rigidly black-and-white moral universe, and some of the worst female characters on TV: we shouldn’t have missed The Newsroom, but let’s be honest, we all kind of did. Aaron Sorkin’s critically panned drama is back at last to act as a lightning rod for all of our rage at everything that’s wrong with media today, and it’s just entertaining enough to make that hate-watching go down with ease. This season, the News Night team is covering Occupy Wall Street while screwing the pooch with some national security-related Big Story that somehow ends with a lawsuit. It’s tone-deaf, sure, but in a world where subtle, interesting female characters are better poised to take over the air waves than ever, Sorkin consistently reminds us of how bad the alternative can be.
Emmy! Emmys! Emmys!
Nominations are out, House of Cards was victorious, and Tatiana Maslany was robbed. The picks have been analyzed to death by now, but it is worth noting that TV really is so good that it’s impossible to nominate everyone, and this year’s nominations really are an improvement over the days when the freaking Wire got left out entirely. And so begins the Daenerys Targaryen for Best Supporting Actress 2k14 campaign (tagline: She’ll Take What’s Hers By Fire and Blood, If It Proves Necessary).