"Orange is the New Black." Jenji Kohan's serialized adaptation of Piper Kerman's memoir about doing time in a women's prison, proves that Netflix isn't just delivering original content in a unique way (i.e. a season at a time). It's also delivering unique content.
Smart, funny and surprisingly moving, "Orange is the New Black" dares to suggest that the pretty, white, middle-class gal that television so loves to position as an Everywoman is nothing of the kind. As Piper Chapman, Taylor Shilling has all the high-maintenance, obliviously entitled tics down pat. Having finally gotten her life together -- the nice apartment, the devoted boyfriend, the artisanal soap business -- Piper is more than a little outraged that she is going to be punished for the youthful "indiscretion" of carrying drug money for an former drug-dealing girlfriend.
The first episode plays very "Private Benjamin" as Piper realizes the things she once viewed as rights were really privileges. But hers is not the only story being told here. Moving through possibly the most racially and socio-economically diverse group of characters ever assembled, Kohan seems determined to tell all their stories. And with an astonishingly fine cast that includes Lea DeLaria, Laura Prepon and Kate Mulgrew, "Orange is the New Black" is indeed binge-worthy right out of the box. Netflix, whenever you want.
"The Newsroom." Aaron Sorkin's high-profile broadcast news drama divided HBO viewers in a way that made the debate over "Girls" look like a support group. The second season, however, promises to draw a lot more straight-up praise.
With the Sorkinian monologues dialed down several notches, a brilliant uber-narrative constructs the many decisions and events that led the good folks at "News Night" to wrongly accuse the government of war crimes. Daunted, but not defeated (and maybe not even really daunted), super anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), executive producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and their team, flash back and forth in time, giving viewers a glimpse of how mistakes are made, both personally and professionally, without all those smug speeches that made so many of us literally scream at the TV last year. HBO, Sundays, 10 p.m.
"Hollywood Game Night." If you still long for the days of "Password," "Pyramid" and "Hollywood Squares," life is about to get much better. NBC is trying to make Thursday night family night by resurrecting the grand old tradition of the celebrity-studded game show. Hosted by Jane Lynch, which is reason enough to watch, the festivities pit two teams of three celebrities and one "normie" against each other in a handful of Hollywood-themed games, some of which are better than others. But with early participants including Martin Short, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry and Kristen Bell, it's almost impossible not to like. NBC, Thursdays, 10 p.m.