Orange Is The New Black's finale marks end of era that changed TV

WASHINGTON • It is the end of an era.

Netflix released a video on Wednesday featuring the cast of Orange Is The New Black, announcing that the show will end with its seventh season, which will be released on the streaming service next year.

Shows are always ending to varying amounts of fanfare, but Orange Is The New Black is no ordinary show.

Netflix's 2013 release of the show, along with House Of Cards and Hemlock Grove, forever altered how television is made and shattered viewers' expectations of how to watch.

This was the full first slate of original programming aimed at adults that Netflix produced.

It is shocking, now, to think that a year's worth of original programming for the streaming service consisted of just a handful of shows.

Netflix began as a DVD-rental service that delivered entertainment via the United States Postal Service. When it shifted to streaming, it was showing old movies and television shows from various studios.

Then, in February 2013, Netflix did something shocking.

It spent US$100 million to create House Of Cards, its own television show which starred then powerhouse actor Kevin Spacey alongside Robin Wright.

It received generally positive reviews from critics and was nominated for nine Primetime Emmys in its first season.

"Its success might alter the concept of traditional television programming," The Washington Post's Emily Yahr wrote just before the show's release, adding: "Instead of doling out one episode per week, broadcast and cable television-style, all 13 episodes of the show's first season will be available on the day it premieres."

It is difficult to remember, but in 2013, the concept of dumping a whole season on fans to binge-watch was unheard of.

But, unlike today, there was not another Netflix show to start on when it was finished. At least, not until that summer.

Netflix released its first foray into horror with the Eli Roth-produced Hemlock Grove in April 2013. Though reactions to the show, which ended in 2015, were fairly muted, it earned two Emmy nominations.

Then, in July, Netflix released Orange Is The New Black.

House Of Cards may have been shocking for its release method, but Orange Is The New Black looked like nothing else on television.

It was a pioneer in television's push to create more diversity onscreen. The show, based on Piper Kerman's 2010 memoir of the same name, is about a preppy white woman who, through circumstances involving an ex-girlfriend, finds herself in prison.

The cast is almost entirely female, with more racial diversity than almost any other piece of American mainstream entertainment.

Now, to many, it feels odd to watch a show where the episodes come out once a week.

Diversity is almost a mandate. And Netflix makes so much original content that awards-garnering powerhouse HBO is sometimes referred to as the underdog.

Orange Is The New Black will likely go out with a whimper, not a bang, much like Hemlock Grove did and House Of Cards will. That is not because it is bad, but simply because it has been in the consciousness so long that viewers do not think about it, the way fish do not feel water.

It no longer feels revolutionary. But without it, viewers would not have modern television.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2018, with the headline 'Orange Is The New Black's finale marks end of era that changed TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe