DONALD: I knew that Beehiver Traci Arbios had fallen head over heels for the new Netflix original prison comedy-drama series “Orange is the New Black” the morning she walked into the newsroom wearing a jumpsuit the color of a traffic cone. OK, maybe she didn’t go THAT far. But Traci did admit to binge watching all 13 episodes of the series in something like three days, which is roughly equivalent in junk-food terms to inhaling two packages of Oreos plus a Costco bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos in one sitting. That piqued my interest in this series’ storyline about a hapless woman named Piper (played by Taylor Schilling) who finds herself serving 15 months in a woman’s prison for running drug money. Before I knew it, I’d inhaled four episodes myself. Now I’m addicted, and I find myself in the peculiar position of actually enjoying a pop-culture phenomenon – which “Orange” seems to have become — while it’s still hot. (Let’s put it this way: I didn’t get around to the new “Battlestar Galactica” until “Portlandia” made fun of it.)
Because Traci led me to the Orange, you could say, I consider her on this subject to be my guru and me the disciple. And, in the tradition of a devoted follower sitting at the feet of the enlightened master, I decided to interview her. My first question: Have you ever mistakenly stuck a screwdriver in your sweatshirt pocket and forgotten about it, thus making it quite possible for your sentence to be extended five years for carrying a deadly weapon?
TRACI: OK, first, your junk-food analogy is dead on — because like Doritos, after the first nibble of this show, one finds oneself in that odd, zen-like state of simultaneous satisfaction and voracious desire. From the first episode, “Orange” became my crack; I’d finish one episode, and crave just one more hit… and just one more… until, after inhaling all 13 episodes in one giant, three-day binge, I was left muttering to myself in a strung out, desirous stupor. HOW COULD IT JUST END LIKE THAT?
The one thing that has become clear after all these years writing about television is that the way we watch TV continues to evolve.
It started decades ago with families grouped around a small TV screen in the living room watching programming on a handful of channels. That changed when cable launched and the number of options grew as fast as the size of the television screen. DVD boxed sets provided the next big change as TV viewers were no longer the slave to the weekly morsels fed out by networks or cable shows but could power watching an entire season in one setting.
The next step in TV’s evolution has come in the form of Internet offerings from providers such as Hulu, Netflix, Blip, TV One and StageVu. Many of these services once started out as a way to watch TV shows that have already aired but now the original programming continues to grow.
The biggest change in this new Internet world is evident by the way Netflix will be showing its series “House of Cards” that starts Feb. 1 and “Arrested Development” launching in a few months. There also will be a new comedy, “Derek,” from Ricky Gervais and the fantasy series “Hemlock Grove.”
Every episode in the season for these original shows will be made available immediately. This is a big change from DVD sets where a season of a series can be power watched over a weekend but the programming is not been made available until the full run of the season of a series has been completed. Instead of a family sitting around a TV set each week, each family member can watch this original programming on Netflix at the pace they want.
Ted Serandos, chief content officer at Netflix, grew up watching television in the traditional manner and believes TV is important because it’s a major source of entertainment.
“TV matters in our lives. It defines and shapes who we are. And it’s with that deep appreciation for the rich history of television that we are leading the next great wave of change in the media; not to destroy it, but quite the opposite, we are trying to help TV to evolve for the current generation and for generations to come,” says Serandos. “We are programming for the On Demand generation. They will tell us how many episodes they want to watch. They are going to tell us what time to watch them, and they are going to tell us what device they want to watch them on.”
These Internet offerings aren’t just low budget shows pieced together. Kevin Spacey stars in “House of Cards,” a series that rivals any big-budget movie in quality and scope. For performers like Rocky Gervais, the move to Netflix is the next step in changing the way TV programming is watched. He’s been a big advocate for the Internet for years including starting a podcast 10 years ago that have been downloaded 300 million times.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen. I did it for fun. I did it to be in a room with Karl Pilkington, and I wanted to put it out there. I just left the radio show because I was doing ‘The Office.’ And I loved doing the radio show, but I thought, ‘Now I can do it when I want.’ You can upload it. It was global, which is very exciting,” says Gervais. “The most exciting thing for me about the Internet is that it’s global. It’s your own reality that dictates what’s tasteful and what isn’t. So that excites me.”
You know how it is when you find something you love and instantly you want everyone you know to love it, too? Here is a list of things the Beehive is into at this very moment. We invite you to share your obsession in the comments.
Rick: It hasn’t started yet, but I can’t wait to see the final episodes of “Lost.”I can’t imagine how any ending would be completely satisfying. I’m also hooked on “Burn Notice,” “Modern Family” and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.” Heather: My new obsession is making sure that the seafood I eat is sustainable. “Sustainable” is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot, but in this case, it means that I’m trying hard to follow the guidelines for responsible seafood eating set by Seafood Watch, a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that keeps track of which seafood items are safe, healthy, and fished or farmed responsibly. Why is that important? Because we can’t eat seafood if there’s none left in the sea, and I love me some shellfish.
Kathy: I’m really into the marriage of Netflix and PS3, which allows me to stream movies to my TV with the push of a button. It gives me a a whole library of movies at my fingertips. Plus, I get Blu-ray movies sent to me in the mail to supplement the live selections. Since the Netflix warehouse is in Bakersfield, it only takes a day to get a new movie. If that’s not awesome enough, the service is pretty cheap: $11 a month.