Orange Is the New Black is a hit Netflix original series that follows Piper Chapman, a woman convicted for her contributions to a drug smuggling operation. The critically-acclaimed prison dramedy is primarily set in a California jail called Litchfield. It uniquely features a female-oriented ensemble cast played by the likes of Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Uzo Aduba, and Yael Stone, to name a few. So it makes sense that you might be looking for TV shows similar to Orange is the New Black.
The show garnered multiple Emmy nominations throughout its run, mainly for its outstanding female performances. While strong female characters with rich backstories were the engine of the series, the show also used a darkly comedic tone to explore serious topics. It was particularly bold in shining a spotlight on LGBT relationships and issues. The seventh season of Orange Is the New Black is anticipated to air in late July of 2019, though an official date has not yet been announced.
We do have confirmation that Piper Chapman will return since she is the “grounding force of the show”. We can also expect the new season to “fully tell the story of what it’s like for Piper” following the life-altering events of Season 6. In a Hollywood Reporter interview, Executive Producer Tara Herrmann also acknowledges that the experiences of the real Piper are being taken into consideration. Piper Kerman wrote the memoir that inspired the series and also serves as a show consultant.
While few shows offer a package deal in the same way as Orange Is The New Black, there are others built around some of the same elements that made OITNB so successful. Here are some to check out while we wait patiently for the upcoming and final seventh season of the show.
GRIPPING PRISON DRAMAS LIKE ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
Far from a drug smuggling scheme, the Australian series follows Bea Smith who goes to prison after being charged with the attempted murder of her abusive husband. Wentworth takes a more gritty approach as it depicts the reality of life in prison.
But like Orange Is the New Black, this drama features an ensemble cast of complex and morally compromised characters to keep you on the edge of your seat. The series is available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video if you are a Prime subscriber.
If you think you’d rather wind up in Oz over Litchfield, think again. HBO’s very first 1-hour TV drama unfolds in the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility, aka Oz. The series ran for six seasons and though it premiered more than two decades ago, it still makes for gripping entertainment.
Unlike Orange Is the New Black, Oz is set in a prison full of male inmates. If you’re looking for an OITNB-like cast of strong female characters, we’ve got you covered—
STRONG LADY LEADS LIKE PIPER CHAPMAN
If you’re looking for a series with a gang of interesting and diverse personas, look no further. Orphan Black delivers more fascinating characters than one would expect and the talented Tatiana Maslany plays them all. The series is part-drama and part-thriller with a science-fiction twist—and 100% binge-worthy.
Netflix’s Marvel-world series Jessica Jones makes the list because of its similar noir vibe. Krysten Ritter plays Jones, a character not so different from Piper (except the whole private eye superhero thing). Like most of the women at Litchfield, Jones exudes a tough exterior but digging deeper reveals a much more complex and vulnerable character.
Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan has a knack for shows with female ensemble casts and Glow is no exception. The Netflix series offers a take on the 1890s women’s professional wrestling circuit called the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, hence ‘Glow’.
The California-set series follows failed actress Ruth Wilder, aka ‘Zoya the Destroya’, played by Alison Brie. She turns to women’s wrestling and meets a diverse and motley crew of other outcasts. It too manages a tough balancing act: merging tongue-in-cheek comedy while doing justice to women’s issues, particularly in Hollywood.
The first 2 seasons of Glow are available to stream instantly on Netflix.
DARKLY COMEDIC (AND COINCIDENTALLY WEED-CENTRIC)
If you’re a fan of Orange Is the New Black, chances are you’ll also love Weeds. The series was created by mastermind Jenji Kohan before she went on to deliver OITNB.
Weeds follows Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker – you probably know her from West Wing), a widowed mother of two. She resorts to selling marijuana in order to maintain her privileged lifestyle. The show ran for eight seasons and earned a loyal following, not to mention critical acclaim. If you liked OITNB’s darkly comedic outlook on things, you’ll find a recognizable tone shine through in Weeds.
Those who enjoyed Orange Is the New Black’s kaleidoscope of characters and backstories might appreciate High Maintenance. Each episode of the show follows The Guy (Ben Sinclair) as he delivers weed to his clientele. Diving into the lives of each client yields stories that range from poignant to melancholy to absolutely hysterical.
VOICING LGBT PERSPECTIVES
The L Word
If you were attracted to Orange Is the New Black’s ever-changing relationship dynamics, give The L Word a go. The relationship-driven Showtime series follows a close-knit group of lesbians and bi-sexual women navigating everyday life in LA.
While an action-packed sci-fi drama from the creators of The Matrix doesn’t seem like the most obvious vehicle for tackling LGBT issues, Sense8 has done just that. It also explored gender and sexuality alongside politics and religion, topics that many sci-fi shows blatantly ignore.
Vanity Fair called last year’s cancellation ‘heartbreaking’. Netflix’s VP of original content called the show “bold, emotional, stunning, kickass and outright unforgettable,” even as she was announcing the series’ termination. In their two-season run of 23 episodes, the Wachowski sisters managed to create a truly global show and brought together a diverse cast and crew from all corners of the globe.
Does complete transparency make families more functional? Find out as Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as transgender. Maura must balance her quest for self-actualization with parenting her three children who are equally unsure of how to handle the situation.
Transparent has worked alongside shows like Orange Is the New Black to bring LGBT stories to mainstream TV. It also features a similarly diverse cast of characters who identify with various points all over the Kinsey scale.