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Great Reviews and Word of Mouth Have Made "Orange is the New Black" Netflix's Most Watched Show So Far

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | July 24, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | July 24, 2013 |

Besides a “That 70’s Show” relic, a star turned drug-addict, Jason Biggs — who has zero clout and in fact, might have even turned away viewers if it’s all they knew about a show — and showrunner Jenji Kohan (a name only a few recognize, and most associate with the flailing last few seasons of “Weeds”), there wasn’t a lot about “Orange is the New Black” that seemed like a huge draw. It seemed kind of maybe like the female version of “Oz,” or Nancy Botwin’s prison year made into a full-length series. In fact, websites like this one had not built in a lot of time to devote to the show because we had expected maybe a minor, amusing summer show that we’d leisurely pace through over the course of July. I tuned in the Thursday it debuted expecting to watch one or two episodes, maybe, and offer a review the following Monday.

Instead, I’d finished the entire series within 48 hours, and Sarah and Joanna — neither of whom had huge expectations, either — finished it soon thereafter. In fact, the only reason most people didn’t binge on it like Ron Swanson on a meat stick is because they wanted to savor it. It’s definitely one of those shows that is fun to savor.

Turns out, too, that despite the lack of expectations, the hype of “Arrested Development” or the star power of “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” actually was watched more than both of those shows (and that other one that no one likes) during its first week, according to a statement from the company during an earnings call (via All Things D).

“Arrested Development” did better in its first week than “House of Cards” did in its first week, both in terms of viewer numbers and hours viewed. That isn’t a huge surprise, because “House of Cards” was a new show, and “Arrested Development” was a reboot of a series with a big fan base.

But “Orange Is the New Black,” which debuted earlier this month, did better than any other show Netflix has released.

And that is surprising.

While “Orange Is the New Black” got glowing reviews, many of which argued that the women’s prison dramedy may be Netflix’s best series to date,* it got very little hype. Especially compared to “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development,” which featured tons of famous names and lots of high-profile marketing.

That really is a testament to the greatness of “Orange is the New Black” and the way it has elicited immense word of mouth from both viewers and critics. It doesn’t hurt, either, that there was never any pressure to finish “Orange is the New Black” in order to keep up with the Internet. The Facebook/Twitter response I saw to “House of Cards” was “It’s been 10 hours since it’s release, and I’m already finished! Why haven’t you, you lazy asshole?” while the social media response to “Arrested Development” was mostly, “When is this going to get better?” (The fourth or fifth episode!), while the response to “Orange is the New Black” has mostly been, “I can’t wait to get home and watch another episode.”

Indeed, the show has not been talked to death or spoiled. It feels like a show that belongs to the viewer, instead of the Internet. Weirdly, despite it being about felons in prison, the show has a wildly personal feel that I can quite explain and yet, viewers aren’t trying to claim ownership over it. It’s just a great goddamn show, and if you haven’t seen “Orange is the New Black” yet, here are 10 Reasons You Should.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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