July 15, 2013 | 9:08 am
Posted by Zan Romanoff
Summer is my favorite season, I think, which is a funny thing to say because the reason I love it so much is that it's all about escape. Kids go to camp and adults takes weeks seaside, lakeside, poolside, slipping out of whatever unbearable city we're inhabiting to be somewhere else, somewhere pleasant for as long as we're allowed. Summer is suffering we're encouraged to bear and then evade, unlike winter, which I've always found opressive in its omnipresence. And when we go somewhere else we get to be someone else: maybe I just haven't been out of school long enough, but I can't quite shake the idea of summer as a period of reinvention, the hope that whoever I am on the longest days of the year will finally manage to stick through the spread of the colder ones.
NBC's new hour-long dramedy (which is apparently just a word people use now) Camp is all about that particular kind of fantasy: the staff of titular Little Otters contains a kid trying to escape his recent Leukemia diagnosis and two cousenlors who spend every summer sleeping together-- only to ignore one another during the academic year. The pilot, which aired last week, is not great in the way most pilots are-- and this one is particularly overstuffed and exposition-heavy-- but that almost doesn't matter. The cast is large and varied (and contains Rachel Griffiths, who, as far as I'm concerned can do very little wrong) and it's got that unapologetic 80's good guys/bad guys thing going on, villains you can identify because they're rich and they eat lobster and wear polo shirts with the collars popped, because they say nasty things about nice girls and race across a shared lake on loud, obnoxious jet skis. It's like every cultural trope about summer crammed into an hour of television, something fun to relax into after a long day outside in the sun.
Netflix's latest attempt at original programming is about a very different kind of reinvention: Orange is the New Black follows a mid-thirties yuppie named Piper Chapman as she navigates a fifteen-month sentence for aiding and abetting an international drug-smuggling operation some years prior. That Piper has, in the mean time, given up her life of crime (and the girlfriend, Alex, who got her into it) to become, in own words "the nice blonde lady" she was always meant to be doesn't matter-- so she's stuck inside the prison's walls trying to launch an artisanal bath products company, trying to keep her engagement to her fiance, Larry, from falling apart.
I'm only midway through Orange is the New Black; Netflix releases its original programming in whole-season blocks, which means they're ideal for binge-watching but easy to feel behind on. So far I'm not entirely sold: the characters too often veer into charicature, and Piper's milquetoast white lady oh no reaction to pretty much everything-- from pie-fights to women peeing on her floors to being starved after she insults the chef's cooking to her face--is hard to watch after a while. I'm just through episode five, in which she abandons an important work phone call to chase a chicken everyone in the prison is obsessed with (don't ask), and hoping it will mark a turning point both for her and for the show, turning her into the kind of heroine I'll actually be interested in watching, forcing her to let go of who's she's been so that she can reinvent herself, just like everyone else does this time of year.
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