If you love Orange is the New Black and don’t know how you will survive until Season 3 is released, then I have a little something that might tide you over. Netflix Streaming just added both seasons of an Australian prison drama called Wentworth. The show is a re-imagining of a show called Prisoner Cell Block H which ran from 1979 – 1986. I never saw the original series, but the updated version (2013-2014) could be dubbed Blue is the New Black since they all wear teal sweat suits. The incarceration drama has a startling number of similarities to Orange: prison politics, turf wars, junkies, unwanted pregnancy, inappropriate guard and prisoner relationships, a transsexual inmate, a prisoner nicknamed Red, and of course, lesbians. What it doesn’t have is the comic relief that OITNB weaves so masterfully into its show. Wentworth is all drama all the time.
Nicole da Silva
|TV Rating |
45 minutes per episode
|Where to Watch|
|DVD||N/A||DVDs are available on Amazon, but only for Region 2 (UK) DVD players.|
|Instant Video||Netflix Streaming||N/A|
The main character of the show is Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) who looks a bit like a curly haired, hardened version of Stana Katic. After years of domestic violence, including beatings and rape at the hands of her husband, Bea turns the tables and tries to off her spouse, Harry. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) her daughter walks in on the murder. So Bea lets her hubby live. However, she lands in prison awaiting trial for attempted murder. While she doesn’t seem particularly remorseful about trying to put Harry six feet under, leaving her daughter has her in a panic. Bea’s quest to keep Debbie safe is central to Season 1. But once in prison, she can’t avoid being drawn into prison turf wars and finds herself caught in the crossfire of the two “big dogs”, Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva) and Jacs Holt (Kris McQuade). Bea’s story underlines the sad truth that once in prison inmates are more likely to get caught in a downward spiral into more violence than to be rehabilitated.
Franky Doyle is the tough, sarcastic, sexy and hot-tempered leader of H block. And the main lesbian character. Every day is a battle for Franky to get and or keep power. She will do anything to succeed. She doesn’t care who she has to hurt, bribe or lie to. Despite Franky’s mercenary style, she isn’t all together unlikable, you do get the sense under all the bravado she does care about her crew. Franky’s main squeeze is a cute little Korean named Kim (Ra Chapman). But it is the chemistry between Franky and the governor (that’s Aussie for warden) that really make Season 1 interesting. The young, ambitious governor, Erica Davidson (Leeanna Walsman), knows getting involved with a prisoner would end her career, but still she can’t quite hide her attraction to Franky.
Rounding out the prisoner power trinity is Jacs Holt, the mother hen of a crime family. Not just a MOB wife, she is fully entrenched in the business, whether it involves selling drugs or taking a crowbar to someone’s skull. She has run Wentworth for years and isn’t amused by Franky’s grab for power.
In addition to a diverse ensemble of inmates, Wentworth includes plenty of guard drama both in and out of prison. Prison politics fill the work days, while infidelity and family drama fill the nights. All the characters are complex. There are no heroes in white hats or villains in black hats at Wentworth. Everyone dons a hat colored some shade of gray, some admittedly a little darker gray than others. Often times the only difference between the inmates and the guards is that the prisoners got caught.
So if you are missing OITNB, Wentworth is definitely worth a watch. It offers solid writing and performances, a diverse character base, plenty of prison drama and some lesbian angst thrown in for good measure. Oh, and if you have trouble with the Aussie accents turn on closed captioning. This guide to Austrialian prison lingo is helpful too. http://www.channel5.com/shows/wentworth-prison/articles/prison-lingo
- Decent performances.
- Not as many queer characters as OITNB.