The latest season of Netflix’s original breakthrough hit, Orange is the New Black, just dropped, and the streaming service is betting big that this program will continue to set trends and transform viewers’ habits.
The critics loved the first two seasons, allowing the writers and show runners to try a few “different” things in season three. This led to more of a mixed review from fans, but most people still loved the show and felt like it had enough upside to keep binging. That latitude often causes a show to jump the rails in season four, something many hoped or sort of expected “Orange” to do. As Netflix ordered episodes through season seven, fans and critics settled in to see what season four had to offer.
Initial Consensus of OITNB: Season 4
Initial consensus: starts off slow but picks up momentum, leading to a strong finish. Not the first program to try that system. From Sons of Anarchy to Game of Thrones, popular shows have tried to get through some setup and heavy lifting in earlier episodes, leading to mixed reviews before wowing viewers later. The big benefit for Netflix programs that try this model is the binge factor. If viewers know there will be a payoff, AND they know they can get that payoff NOW rather than waiting six weeks, they will be a bit more forgiving of slower episodes.
That’s not to say the program flirted with boring melodrama. Netflix knows its audience too well for that. The prison itself has become a character, adding nuance and setting to the program that is more than a convenient stage where the characters play. The writers still found plenty of room for honest relationships, real consequences, and goofy situations that keep audiences guessing, laughing, and, sometimes, crying. The emotional ride is satisfying for “Orange” fans, and that is exactly what Netflix needs to deliver.
Deliver a Seamless Experience
The key to strong positive PR and winning in the streaming age is to deliver the experience. These days programming is not about water cooler talk, it’s about shared experience. Fans have their phones at hand while they watch, tweeting and liking and sharing their reactions immediately. “Reaction” collages are up almost instantly after a program has aired. And, with the advent of binge watching, there’s the added tension of wondering which of their friends has seen which episodes. That question, as much as any, keeps people talking. And that talking, that connecting, is what helps a program “win” in the age of streaming. A show can be “good”, but if nobody talks about it, without the big network push, no one will know.