Watching ‘Orange is the New Black’ and three other TV shows from America in India

As local TV channels start beaming the best US programmes, ; audiences can catch up on what the world is watching.

True, none of these television series is new. Many may have already watched them on the Internet, legi-timately or otherwise. Still, the latest line-up of US shows on Indian TV, via Colors Infinity – supposedly “curated” by Alia Bhatt and Karan Johar – does bring some programming worth a watch, especially for the larger audience that may not be conversant with downloading and streaming.

So, better late than never. And perhaps we can look forward to a time when, like Hollywood movies nowadays, American TV shows are also launched simultaneously in India. Meanwhile, here’s a guide to the four most interesting shows you can watch every evening:

Orange is the New Black

Created by Jenji Kohan, this one’s a comedy-drama series based on a memoir of the same name. The memoir was written by Piper Kerman, who served a year in prison for money laundering and drug trafficking.

Kerman is the real-life version of Piper Chapman, portrayed as an entitled WASP woman who slowly hardens into a different kind of person while in prison. Chapman was the central figure in the first season, but the show has always had a very strong – and, some would say, much more compelling – ensemble cast. The story deviates wildly from Kerman’s original as the series progresses, and screen-time is more or less equally divided amongst the ensemble cast, which includes the celebrated transgender actress Laverne Cox.

OITNB has been frequently lauded as having one of the most, if not the most, diverse casts in American television. Women, and the relationships between them – including the romantic and the sexual – are the heart of OITNB, and the frankness as well as cel-ebration with which women’s issues are depicted on the show is unique.

The show is pointedly political, calling attention to class, racism, sexism, and corporate greed. However, it has also been criticised for what some argue are inaccurate and even romanticised por-trayals of what life in a federal prison is really like for disadvan-taged women inmates.

Fargo

Created by Noah Hawley, this show is inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers classic film of the same name. The Coen brothers serve as executive producers for the show, which was originally meant to be a limited 10-episode series, but has been renewed for a second season. 

The TV series does not follow the same plotline as the film, but makes use of the same genre and locales, managing to be a com-pelling standalone production rather than simply a tribute to Fargo the film. Fans of the movie will love the frequent nods to the original, including the written proclamation at the start of every episode: “This is a true story.” (It isn’t).

Newcomer Allison Tolman is fantastic as the dedicated and effec-tive small-town cop Molly Solverson, and more than holds her own against Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, who are both in main roles, the former as the sinister havoc-wreaking hired killer, and the latter as the bumbling, repressed insurance salesman. Bob Odenkirk, of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame, also features.

Fargo has received rave reviews for its ability to display tremendous originality and, with its wintry landscapes and twisted humour, still be true in spirit to the cult film that inspired it.

Better Call Saul

A spin-off from the superb crime drama Breaking Bad, this one is brought to us by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, along with Peter Gould. We meet Saul Goodman, Jesse and Walter’s corrupt lawyer, in 2002, six years before the events of Breaking Bad.

The kernel of Better Call Saul – the descent of a likeable character into darker and darker depths – is something we already know Gilligan is a master at depicting. Odenkirk’s character hasn’t yet adopted his criminal lawyer alias, and is still known as James ‘Jimmy’ McGill.

Breaking Bad fans know what’s coming eventually, and they get to witness this: the transformation of Jimmy into the smarmy, slick Saul Goodman, a character at once ridiculous and dangerous. It’s going to be a long descent, and is handled skillfully by the showmakers and by Odenkirk himself.

Better Call Saul has been renewed for a second season. Mark Erhmantraut reprises his role as fixer, and other Breaking Bad characters may make appearances. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Aa-ron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman is going to be one of them.

The Flash

Featuring one of DC Comics’ most iconic superheroes, The Flash is a spin-off from the TV series Arrow, which was about another superhero, Green Arrow. The fastest man in the world – well, per-haps barring Superman, though they did tie a a race once – is an old fan favourite. So, both Warner Brothers and casual fans were happy enough with the pilot for a full season to be commissioned. It has proved to be a hit from the first episode itself, with review-ers praising the show’s confidence, and the freshness of leading man Grant Gustin, who plays the title character, Barry Allen/The Flash.

A brilliant crime scene detective by profession, Allen is haunted by his memories of his mother’s murder by a mysterious superna-tural force. Many years later, a particle accelerator malfunctions and explodes in Central City, where Allen lives, and douses the city centre in a mysterious radiation. Injured in the blast, Allen wakes up from a nine-month coma to realise that he has developed the ability to run at superhuman speeds.

People have praised the light, unassuming tone of the series and its appeal to both fans and novices alike. A second season is in the offing.

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