I just finished a marathon binge viewing of Orange Is the New Black like some Portlandia hipster cliche. It was so incredibly satisfying, in all the ways that Mad Men this season was dull and irritating.
I'll break it down:
Mad Men: Every character is narcissistic, opportunistic, reactive to their circumstances, but ultimately unchanged. No one grows by connecting to another human being. Peggy and Pete? Roger and Joan? Don and Megan? Every character is an atom that bumping into another atom, then bouncing away as it goes about its meaningless business.
Orange: The characters actually engage with and are changed by each other.
Mad Men has been called a parable of the American dream -- Don Draper as Jay Gatsby, the self-made man who reinvents himself until he embodies success. Honestly? I'm pretty bored with that story. It goes nowhere, other than to a line of Mad Men suits, dresses and accessories at Banana Republic.
Orange won't inspire any fashion trends or launch any product lines. Orange is a very different parable about America, one that recognizes limits, entrenched power structures, and the lie of meritocracy. It's also a parable that offers redemption -- not through yoga, juice cleanses or self-love -- but through recognizing the universality of our individual journeys, and offering a hand to a fellow traveler.