December 23, 2013 12:00 PM

THE BEST SHOW I EVER HATED

The Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black initially earned a mere from me. Now I’ve watched it all – and is the new rating.

I could start by saying that critics are only human, but we know that isn’t true. So let me argue instead that opinions are not etched in stone, even opinions in print, and that temperament is a fickle thing – more predictable than the weather, less dependable than the seasons. When Netflix began streaming Orange Is the New Black, its comedy-drama about a women’s prison, I had been allowed to screen six of 13 hours, and I didn’t like it. In particular, I had a strong visceral reaction to – against – the main character, inmate Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling). A privileged young woman who had foolishly drifted into a career as a drug mule, she was whiny, self-pitying and not nearly the satirical target she deserved to be. In contrast to Mary-Louise Parker’s pot-dealing Nancy Botwin on Weeds – created, like Orange, by Jenji Kohan – she had no steel. That was July. Now, having watched the complete first season, I still have reservations about soppy Piper – she moves like a reluctant mop – but she and all the inmates are touchingly believable: Their stories are spelled out in powerful flashbacks, and each part is acted with gut-level sincerity. And Kate Mulgrew, as a Russian cook with hair the color of borscht, is great. The show’s keystone, she’s intimidating but heartbreaking, and somehow epic.

If George Elliot had ever spent time on a cell block, she might have written Orange instead of Middlemarch.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO TOM: tomsreviews@peoplemag.com

Courtney Loves Dallas

Bravo, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |

REALITY

Courtney Kerr, who was introduced to the Bravo universe in Most Eligible Dallas, is a fashion blogger who likes to dress up, hit the bars, gossip with girlfriends and, from time to time, sulk over a failed relationship with a handsome bad boy. It’s standard-issue and—not good for a fashionista – feels superannuated: Little Lauren Conrad bravely charted these seas years ago.

Rick and Morty

Adult Swim, Mondays, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT |

ANIMATED

In a golden age of narrative TV, cartoons offer countervailing, subversive pleasures: They’re juvenile, satiric, surreal. Those words all apply to the wild spree Rick and Morty from Community’s Dan Harmon. Young Morty (voiced by cocreator Justin Roiland) is dragged off by insane inventor grandfather Rick (Roiland again) on adventures across time and space. Old Rick is an inspired character: A mix of Christopher Walken and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future, he’s as scary, random and perverse as the unconscious, and a lot more fun.

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