Tag Archives: orange is the new black

Binge watching on Netflix no longer requires internet access

Netflix subscribers can now binge on many of their favorite shows and movies even when they don’t have an internet connection.

The long-awaited offline option announced this week gives Netflix’s 87 million subscribers offline access to videos for the first time in the streaming service’s decade-long history.

Netflix is matching a downloading feature that one of its biggest rivals, Amazon.com, has been offering to its video subscribers for the past year. It’s something that also has been available on YouTube’s popular video site, though a subscription is required in the U.S. and other countries where the site sells its “Red” premium service.

The new feature puts Netflix a step ahead of two other major rivals. Offline options aren’t available on HBO’s internet-only package, HBO Now, or Hulu, although that service has publicly said it hopes to introduce a downloading feature.

Netflix subscribers wishing to download a video on their smartphone or tablet need to update the app on their Apple or Android device.

Not all of the selections in Netflix’s video library can be downloaded, although several of the service’s most popular shows, including “Orange Is The New Black,” “House of Cards,” and “Stranger Things,” are now available to watch offline.

Downloadable movies include “Spotlight,” this year’s Oscar winner for best film. Notably missing from the downloadable menu are movies and TV shows made by Walt Disney Co. Those still require an internet connection to watch on Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California, company is promising to continue to adding more titles to its offline roster.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had long resisted calls for an offline-viewing option, much to the frustration of customers who wanted flexibility to use their subscriptions to watch a show or movie when traveling on a train, plane or car where internet connections are spotty or completely unavailable.

Earlier this year, Hastings finally indicated he might relent and introduce downloading.

The change of heart coincided with Netflix’s expansion into more than 130 countries, including many areas with shoddy or expensive internet connections that make the ability to watch video offline even more appealing.

Netflix ended September with 39 million subscribers outside of the U.S.

The offline option may accelerate the decline of Netflix’s steadily shrinking DVD-by-mail service, which offers the ability to watch video without an internet connection. Netflix’s DVD side still has one distinct advantage — access to recent theatrical releases before they are available for streaming.

Netflix’s DVD service ended September with 4.3 million subscribers, a decrease of nearly 10 million customers during the past five years.

‘Orange is the New Black’ star, show writer get engaged

Orange is the New Black star Samira Wiley and show writer Lauren Morelli are engaged.

The pair posted the same picture on their Instagram accounts Tuesday. It shows a smiling couple and Wiley flashing a diamond ring.

When sharing the picture on Twitter , Wiley wrote, “I’ll do anything with this one.”

Morelli came out publicly two years ago in an article for Mic , where she wrote that she realized she was gay on one of her first days on the set of the Netflix prison dramedy in 2012. She later filed for divorce from her then-husband.

Orange is the New Black is set in a women’s prison and frequently focuses on lesbian relationships.

Wiley plays inmate Poussey Washington in the Netflix series.


Blair Brown is happy to be sentenced to a role on ‘Orange’

On last season’s finale of Orange is the New Black, Judy King, nailed for tax evasion, arrived at Litchfield Penitentiary to surrender. But she found no one at the front desk to receive her.

Judy had a fit. A big-time TV chef, she wasn’t used to being made to wait.

With Netflix’s release of the entire 13-episode fourth season June 17, viewers will find Judy has subsequently gotten a warm welcome at Litchfield from many of her fellow female inmates (she’s a TV star!). And from the warden, too, who handles her with kid gloves: He worries that, if anything ugly should befall her, bad publicity or even a lawsuit would result.

Suffice it to say that Judy will help make this Orange season cook as Blair Brown joins the cast of this prison comedy-drama for an exploration of fame compelled to coexist with hoi polloi.

In a recent interview, Brown takes pains to say Judy King isn’t meant to be a Martha Stewart knockoff, although the similarities (including their mutual incarceration) are obvious. But so is the nod to down-South culinarian Paula Deen, as evidenced by Judy’s luxurious drawl.

“Judy’s Southern all right,” says Brown. “She’s also very outgoing, very friendly, and a complete egotist in the sense that whatever is good for her, she figures is very good for you. She is a survivor, and her attitude in being in prison is, she just wants to get this done.”

In the process, she rises to the occasion. Here, as with most places, she loves the spotlight.

“It’s interesting to come into this story playing a privileged person,” Brown says. “There are a lot of feelings both on the administrative side and the inmate side as to what that means, and why that is.”

Brown, 69, is a veteran actress with a wide range of roles whose only commonality may be her signature red hair and luminous smile.

Her film work includes a trio of major releases within two years (1980-81): One-Trick Pony, Altered States and Continental Divide. Her many theater credits include a Tony Award-winning turn in the play Copenhagen.

Recent TV appearances include a recurring role last season on Limitless, and before that as the steely corporate boss on the Fox sci-fi series Fringe.

And, of course, there’s her celebrated run as the title character of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, which, though not a smash hit, helped change TV.

Brown says she has been an Orange fan since its inception.

“When it first started, I thought, ‘Is there any room for me on this?’ But I decided they had plenty of people, with enough stories to tell.

“Then I got the call to play Judy,” she smiles, “and the character was easy, because she came in wondering how does all this work? So did I. All the stuff I’m trying to find out as a new cast member works hand in hand with Judy’s journey. So that’s been a happy coincidence.”

Another happy coincidence: The role has brought her back to Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Queens, New York, production center where Molly Dodd was shot three decades ago.

Premiering on NBC in May 1987, Molly Dodd centered on a mid-30s divorcee living in New York who, by turns, was a free spirit and a Yuppie hewing to no clear professional or romantic path.

While many viewers loved this new form, many more didn’t get it. Nor would some of them accept Molly: She was a bit too liberated, too unpredictable, too complex.

For Brown, it was all a much simpler experience.

“It just seemed so easy,” she recalls. “We told these little half-hour stories. We didn’t have a laugh track and we didn’t have to go for big yuks. We thought, ‘Let’s just have a person who lives her life. What would that be like?’ And that, of course, is what some people loved. But other people hated it.”

NBC, as perplexed by Molly Dodd as some viewers, bounced the show from slot to slot for a year. Then Lifetime came to its rescue, where it aired until 1991.

Along the way, it helped stake out a genre dubbed “dramedy,” a term also applied to similarly groundbreaking shows Hooperman, Frank’s Place and Doogie Howser, M.D., which launched Neil Patrick Harris.

It was a form that greatly stretched the possibilities of the strictly comic half-hour sitcom as well as the strictly dramatic hour-long dramas of that day. Without Molly Dodd, it’s possible that Orange would never have happened.

“But now,” says Brown, “many, many years later, I’m back in Queens, at the same studio, doing another show that’s funny when it wants to be funny, serious and scary when it wants to be serious and scary. It’s a very similar idea. It’s just about people. And you don’t have to blow anything up.”

Laverne Cox to star in ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ remake

Laverne Cox has signed to star in a remake of the The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 cult classic flick that’s still shown in midnight screenings throughout the English-speaking world. A twisted homage to B-grade sci-fi and horror films, Rocky Horror is the longest running movie in history.

Cox, best known for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black, will take on the lead role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, self-described in song as a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.” Actor Tim Curry originated the role, and the film also brought a young Susan Sarandon to fame.

According to the Hollywood rumor mill, the lead role in the new production was first offered to Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert.

Emmy-nominated for her work in OITNB, Cox recently co-starred in Lily Tomlin’s feature film Grandma. She’s also guest starred in a number of TV series, including Law & Order, The Mindy Project and Bored to Death. She produced and starred in the VH1 series TRANSform Me.

Cox is also a widely respected and much-honored activist for LGBT rights activist. Among her laurels is an award from GLAAD. She appeared on the June 14, 2014 cover of Time magazine.

Fox 21 Television Studios is co-producing the Rocky Horror reboot, and Lou Adler, who produced the original, is one of the executive producers. The show will air on Fox as a two-hour special next fall.

‘House of Cards’ returns for 3rd season

Even if it never wins another award, “House of Cards” already ranks among the most influential series in television history.

The political drama launched Netflix’s expansion into original programming two years ago, a risky bet that might have toppled the Internet video service had “House of Cards” flopped and squandered its estimated $100 million investment. Instead, the show was an immediate hit with viewers and critics, giving Netflix the financial clout and creative firepower to further transform how we watch and define “television.” And it spurred other online services such as Amazon.com Inc. and Google’s YouTube to spend more on their own original content to create shows that rival those produced by broadcast and cable channels.

Season three debuted last week, giving fans a chance to see Frank and Claire Underwood continue their machinations, now from a hard-won White House perch. The show marks just one of more than 20 original series or movies that Netflix is scheduled to show this year. Producing that much original content would have seemed like a long shot before “House of Cards” first established Netflix as more than a convenient and cheap way to watch recycled TV series and movies previously released on DVD. Launched in February 2013, “House of Cards” was among the first major series to release an entire season at once, a move that fed into viewers’ desire to devour several episodes at a time instead of having to wait a week to see another installment.

Many analysts now view “House of Cards” and Netflix’s other award-winning series released a few months later – “Orange is the New Black” – as turning points in the company’s evolution, similar to the impact “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” had for HBO. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings now regularly likens the company to the HBO of the Internet.

Just how many Netflix subscribers have watched “House of Cards” remains a mystery because the company has refused to reveal the viewership of any of its series. But this much is clear: “House of Cards” came along at a pivotal juncture for Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California, company was still recovering from a subscriber backlash triggered in mid-2011 by a dramatic increase in its prices and a bungled attempt to spin off its DVD-by-mail service. Undaunted, Netflix continued to commit billions of dollars to long-term licensing agreements with movie and TV studios while also spending heavily on an international expansion. Some analysts questioned whether the company could survive.

Wall Street’s doubts have dissipated, and Netflix’s service has become an entertainment staple around the world. Since “House of Cards” was released, Netflix’s stock has nearly tripled to about $480 while its Internet video service has grown subscribers by 24 million subscribers to 57 million. Half of those gains have come in the U.S.

The momentum emboldened Netflix last year to raise its monthly streaming prices by a $1 to $9. There was little blowback from customers this time. Netflix’s widening appeal may have also contributed to HBO’s decision to begin selling its channel as a separate Internet service later this year. HBO hasn’t yet announced its prices for the HBO Go service.

The next challenge for Netflix will be proving that it can consistently deliver series as good as “House of Cards,” which has received 22 Emmy nominations and won four awards so far, and “Orange Is The New Black,” which has collected three Emmy awards among its 12 nominations.

While some of Netflix’s other original programs, such as “Hemlock Grove” and “BoJack Horseman,” have attracted enthusiastic followings, they haven’t proven to be a subscriber drawing card like “House of Cards,” said Rosenblatt Securities analyst Martin Pyykkonen. “Netflix needs to get to the point where it’s showing three or four high-quality shows like `House of Cards” every quarter if it wants to retain subscribers,” he said.

Laverne Cox stands with transgender student appealing ‘manifesting’ prostitution conviction

A student and activist at Arizona State University is appealing her conviction under Phoenix’s “manifesting” intent to engage in prostitution ordinance.

Monica Jones is seeking a reversal of the conviction with the support of her pro bono attorney at Perkins Coie, the American Civil Liberties Union and Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox.

Jones, who is a transgender woman of color, was convicted in April in Phoenix Municipal Court for a misdemeanor under a city code that criminalizes waving at cars, talking to passersby and asking of someone is a police officer, according to her legal representation.

“The officer who arrested me profiled me as a sex worker because I am transgender, I am a woman of color and I live in an area that is perceived to be low income,” Jones said.

Jean-Jaques “J” Cabou, an attorney at Perkins Coie, said Jones was denied a trial by jury, convicted of a misdemeanor she did not commit and prosecuted under a statute that is unconstitutional.

“This law is unconstitutional, her trial was unfair and her conviction should be reversed,” Cabou said.

Jones also has found support from the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, the Transgender Law Center, Lambda Legal and the Urban Justice Center — the civil rights groups have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on the student’s behalf and against the Phoenix law.

“Transgender women, especially transgender women of color, are too often perceived by law enforcement to be engaged in prostitution solely because of their transgender status,” said ACLU attorney Chase Strangio. “Vague and overbroad laws, like Phoenix’s manifesting ordinance, give too much discretion to police officers, encouraging biased policing against women of color, particularly transgender women of color, people living in poverty and other members of the LGBT community.”

The amicus brief argues, in part, that Jones was assumed to be engaging in sex work because of how she looked.

During Jones’ bench trial, the arresting officer said that Jones’ presence in an area he claimed is “known for prostitution” and her outfit, which he described as a “black, tight-fitting dress,” suggested to him that Jones was manifesting intent to engage in prostitution.

The arresting officer at trial, and about 20 times in his written report, referred to Jones as a man.

Lending support to Jones’ cause, LGBT civil rights advocate and actress Laverne Cox, said in a statement, “Our society is unfortunately filled with negative assumptions about trans women. This law allows all of those assumptions to be acted upon, emboldening officers to arrest people just because of how they look or act. Walking while trans should not be a crime, but this law can certainly make it one.” Cox is starring in Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

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Amnesty International: Prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prison is inhuman

The U.S. government’s practice of holding prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement in a federal super-maximum security prison amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is in violation of international law, according to Amnesty International, the global human rights group.

Amnesty, in a new report titled “Entombed: Isolation in the U.S. Federal Prison System, documented the severity of conditions that prisoners face in the maximum facility near Florence, Colorado, that is known as ADX Florence.

“You cannot overestimate the devastating impact long periods of solitary confinement can have on the mental and physical well-being of a prisoner. Such harsh treatment is happening as a daily practice in the U.S., and it is in breach of international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director.

The report deals with the physical and psychological impact of confining inmates to solitary cells for 22-24 hours a day. The conditions in ADX have led to some prisoners practicing extreme self-harm or committing suicide. Symptoms resulting from being held in isolation for extended periods include anxiety, depression, insomnia, hypertension, extreme paranoia, perceptual distortions and psychosis.

ADX Florence has a capacity for 490 male inmates. Most prisoners there have been convicted of serious offenses in prison such as assault, murder or attempted escape; others have been convicted of terrorism offenses.

Prisoners spend a minimum of 12 months in solitary confinement before becoming eligible for a reduction in the restrictions of their detention. Amnesty said that the reality is many prisoners spend much longer in isolation. One study produced by lawyers found the average length of time an inmate would spend in isolation was 8.2 years.

Most inmates are held in cells with solid walls and a barred, air-lock style chamber in front of a solid metal door, to ensure they have no contact with other prisoners. One small slit of a window allows them a view of the sky or a brick wall.

Furniture in the cells is made of poured concrete and consists of a fixed bunk, desk and a stool, as well as a shower and a toilet. Meals and showers are taken inside the cells and medical consultations, including mental health checks, are often conducted remotely through teleconferencing.

Amnesty’s report details several examples of a prisoner’s mental health deteriorating dramatically whilst in solitary confinement.

In September 2013 a prisoner with a history of mental illness hanged himself in his cell after reportedly spending more than a decade at ADX with only intermittent mental health care. He suffered psychotic symptoms which had allegedly been ignored in the days before his death.

There are now worrying signs that the U.S. government plans to expand its use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Plans for Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois, a new supermax prison, include provisions for solitary confinement, replicating the system at ADX.

“This is the ultimate form of warehousing prisoners and the idea that the US government is planning to expand the practice in the face of international concern is truly worrying. The use of such forms of solitary confinement goes beyond legitimate correctional measures and strays into cruel and inhuman treatment,” said Guevara-Rosas.

“The U.S. government must ensure that solitary confinement is only ever used in exceptional circumstances as a last resort and should never be used for prolonged or indefinite periods of time. No prisoner who has a mental illness or who is at risk of mental illness should ever be held in solitary confinement.”

Amnesty International visited the ADX facility in 2001, but since then all visit requests have been denied. Information in the report has been gathered through a range of sources including court documents available through lawsuits and other information provided by attorneys representing ADX inmates, as well as policy directives issued by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The practice of prolonged solitary confinement is not limited to ADX. Amnesty International’s report notes that other federal facilities also confine prisoners in prolonged isolation in Special management units.

In some cases prisoners are held in isolation even before they have stood trial. The Metropolitan Correction Centre in New York, also known as “Little Gitmo,” is used to house pre-trial detainees in solitary confinement for months or even years before they face trial. Detainees have little access to natural light and no provision for outdoor exercise.

‘Game of Thrones’ earns 19 Emmy nominations

The sprawling and bloodthirsty saga “Game of Thrones,” defying the Emmy Awards’ grudging respect for such fantasy fare, emerged as the leader in the nominations announced Thursday with 19 bids, including best drama series.

Other top nominees included a pair of ambitious miniseries, “Fargo,” with 18 bids, and “American Horror Story: Coven,” with 17.

The AIDS drama “The Normal Heart” received 16 nominations, including best TV movie.

The meth kingpin tale “Breaking Bad” got 16 bids for its final season, including best drama and a best actor nod for star Bryan Cranston.

The 66th prime-time Emmy Awards ceremony will have big-screen star power to spare. This year’s Academy Awards best-actor winner Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) and nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”) are both nominees for TV projects, as is past Oscar winner Julia Roberts.

In the competitive best-drama series category, “Game of Thrones” will compete with “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “House of Cards,” “Mad Men” and “True Detective.”

Whether HBO’s “Game of Thrones” can take home the top trophy is another question: Only one fantasy or sci-fi series, “Lost,” has ever captured it, according to Tom O’Neil, author of “The Emmys” and organizer of the Gold Derby awards site.

Snubbed in the category was “The Good Wife,” despite a season that was both critically acclaimed and gasp-inducing for the sudden, violent death of character Will Gardner (Josh Charles).

Netflix’s “House of Cards” which made a breakthrough last year as the first online series nominated for a major award, has the chance again to grab Emmy gold.

“Orange is the New Black,” also from Netflix, leaped that barrier on the flip side this time around with a bid for best comedy series, along with a nod for star Taylor Schilling.

Also competing for best comedy honors are “The Big Bang Theory,” “Louie,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep,” and “Modern Family,” a four-time winner that has the chance to tie “Frasier” as the all-time winning sitcom with one more award.

“Orange is the New Black,” a prison-set hybrid “dramedy,” could have been entered in either the drama or comedy category, and the decision to go for the latter paid off. Not so for “Shameless,” a onetime drama contender that tried for better luck on the comedy side but failed to get a top bid.

Another category-buster is “True Detective,” the dark-hearted Southern drama that starred McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It was entered in the series category although it had a close-ended story and its stars have indicated they don’t plan on returning for the show’s second season.

But the crime anthology qualifies as a series because of the “created by” credit given to Nic Pizzolatto by the Writers Guild of America, said John Leverence, the TV academy’s senior vice president for awards. That credit serves as a “marker” to help determine a program’s first-year Emmy categorization, which can be ambiguous, Leverence said.

McConaughey and Harrelson both will vie for best drama actor honors, along with four-time winner Cranston for “Breaking Bad,” Jon Hamm for “Mad Men,” Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards,” and Jeff Daniels for “The Newsroom,” who won the Emmy last year.

Nominees in the lead actress drama category are last year’s winner, “Homeland” star Claire Danes along with Lizzy Caplan for “Masters of Sex,” Michelle Dockery for “Downton Abbey,” Julianna Margulies for “The Good Wife,” Kerry Washington for “Scandal” and Robin Wright for “House of Cards.”

“I’m crazy grateful that the TV Academy has acknowledged our show in these ways,” Washington said in a statement, giving a shoutout to fellow “Scandal” nominees Joe Morton and Kate Burton. They were recognized in the guest actor and actress categories.

For comedy series, the lead actor nods went to Don Cheadle for “House of Lies,” Louis C.K. for “Louie,” Ricky Gervais for “Derek,” Matt LeBlanc for “Episodes,” William H. Macy for “Shameless” and Jim Parsons for “The Big Bang Theory.” Parsons won the Emmy last year.

Best actress comedy nominees besides Schilling were Lena Dunham for “Girls,” Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie,” Melissa McCarthy for “Mike & Molly,” Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation” and last year’s winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for “Veep.”

“This list of nominees would also be the list for the best dinner party in history,” “Girls” creator and star Dunham said in a statement, dubbing them “fierce and funny women.”

With a resurgence of so-called long-form drama, the TV academy separated the best movie and miniseries categories that had been combined for several years because of scant entries. The acting categories, however, remain a mix of the two.

In the miniseries category, “American Horror Story: Coven” and “Fargo,” a riff on the 1996 movie of the same name, will compete with “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Luther,” “Treme” and “The White Queen.”

Along with “The Normal Heart,” the TV movie nominees are “Killing Kennedy,” “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” “Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)” and “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Roberts is a supporting actress nominee for “The Normal Heart.” Ejiofor earned a bid for the miniseries “Dancing on the Edge.”

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Monday, Aug. 25, on NBC, with emcee Seth Meyers, the former “Saturday Night Live” player and new NBC late-night host. The ceremony, traditionally held on Sunday, was moved to avoid a conflict with NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and with MTV’s Video Music Awards.

HBO received a leading 99 nominations, followed by CBS with 47; NBC, 46; FX Networks, 45; ABC, 37; PBS, 34; Showtime, 24, and Fox, 18.



Rainbow streamers: Netflix celebrates LGBT Pride Month

Netflix is celebrating LGBT Pride Month with a series of films and TV shows with an LGBT theme or LGBT characters or available for streaming.

The video-streaming service also will make Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black” available beginning June 6.

A sampling of what’s on:

• “Pit Stop.”

• “Yossi.”

• “Beyond the Walls.”

• “Bear City.”

• “Interior Leather Bar.”

• “GBF.”

• “COG.”

• “Dawson’s Creek.”

• “Glee.”

• “Clueless.”

• “Torchwood.”

• “Xena.”

• “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

• “The Venture Bros.”

• “The Boondock Saints.”

• “Stranger by the Lake.”

• “Jack and Diane.”

• “Heavenly Creatures.”

• “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2.”

• “Queer as Folk.”

• “Brothers & Sisters.”

• “Grey’s Anatomy.”

• “Paris is Burning.”

• “Rent.”

• “The Crying Game.”

• “Camp.”

• “Pageant.”

• “The Kids are all Right.”

• “Brokeback Mountain.”

• “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

• “Bridegroom.”

• “Boys Don’t Cry.”

• “Mulan.”

• “Just One of the Guys.”

• “Shakespeare in Love.”