In a bold move today, Netflix announced that it has renewed its women’s prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black for three more seasons. Season 4 is set to premiere this summer, so the timing of the renewal announcement seemingly comes out of nowhere. But, good news for fans is that series creator Jenji Kohan has signed on to stay as showrunner for all seven seasons. She said in a press release,
“Three more years! Not quite a political term, but still plenty of time to do some interesting things. In some cultures, ‘May you lead an interesting life,’ is a curse, but I don’t live in those cultures. Here’s to keeping it interesting. Thanks Netflix! Both thanks and you’re welcome Lionsgate! And kudos and gratitude to the stellar cast and crew and writers and producers and editors and musicians and mixers and shleppers… with whom I have the pride and honor of crafting this show. Three more years! Three more years!”
Though fans are likely heartened by Netflix’s strong commitment to keeping the series going, there’s also a feeling that a 3 season pickup feels a little premature. Look, I binge every new season of Orange like the best of them, and it’s always entertaining (this last season started off a little rough, but became pretty great). But Netflix’s original content hasn’t been around long enough for it to know when enough is enough — sometimes even great shows need to wrap up before seven seasons. In fact, most do. House of Cards faltered in its third season, so we’ll see if it picks back up in Season 4.
But Orange Is the New Black has a huge cast of characters (and believable room for more to enter in) that it can keep mining stories from for a long time, which is likely Kohan’s strategy. (The show may also continue to pivot away from Taylor Schilling’s Piper as the main storyline, not because Schilling isn’t great, but because we’ve kind of seen it all with Piper at this point). Still, just seeing the women deal with daily life at Litchfield is often interesting and compelling enough on its own. For now! (Although the show needs to stop burning through certain plots so quickly).
The bottom line is that Netflix is still figuring things out when it comes to their original content (all the reboots? 7 seasons? Marvel spinoffs for everyone?), but the hope is that they won’t fall into the same pitfalls as a broadcast network and let things run beyond their time. Kohan’s series Weeds (Showtime is another provider that lets series go way, way beyond their ability to keep telling great stories) went on for several seasons too long. But, again, it didn’t have the massive ensemble cast that Orange Is the New Black does. Maybe the show will cut back on individual season’s episode numbers? We’ll see. How would you like the show to spend its doubled-down time?
Orange Is the New Black Season 4 arrives on Netflix Friday, June 17th. You can check out the status of all cancelled and renewed TV series with our TV Lifeline.