Ryan Murphy Almost Created 'Orange Is The New Black,' So What Would Have Been Different?
Weird news of the day: Turns out, if inspiration had struck, Orange is the New Black would have been Ryan Murphy's project. Shocked? I know I was: The detail is mentioned during a long and fascinating interview with The Hollywood Reporter, in which Murphy revealed he once had the rights to Piper Kerman's Orange is the New Bl ack memoir. "I just could never figure out how to do it," he told THR. "And then the option lapsed, and it became this great big thing …" But, what if Murphy had figured out how to make OITNB his own? The show as you know it would be very different.
Any Murphy fan — or detractor, for that matter — will tell you Murphy has a distinct style. Whether you are watching Nip/Tuck, Glee, or American Horror Story, there are certain themes that reoccur. Where OITNB showrunner Jenji Kohan is all about characters and winding stories that take shape over the course of an entire season, Murphy's stories are in your face right from the start. He moves through storylines at a rapid pace, he has a snappy style of dialogue, and he adores Jessica Lange (as one should).
For good or ill, if Murphy was in charge of Litchfield Penitentiary, the stories of Piper, Alex, Suzanne, and the rest of the women would likely look nothing like they do today. Put on those imagination caps, kids, and let's journey into a world where Murphy created OITNB.
1. Prison Might Look Way More Like High School
To be fair, Kohan has had her share of fun with the parallels between prison and high school — but under Murphy's reign, I'm sure the cliques, gossip, and push to be part of the "popular crowd" would have been even more pronounced. In Scream Queens ' Season 1, Episode 4 "Pumpkin Patch," episode, Murphy included a brief OITNB parody that hinted at the importance social standing in prison — so I imagine he'd take it even further if he was actually working on OITNB. Prison homecoming dance, anyone?
2. Constant Pop Culture References
Imagine: Piper downing boiled eggs to stick it to the man, Poussey standing in the rain doing her best Shawshank Redemption imitation, an elaborate arc about escaping from prison... Murphy loves nothing more than to see art imitating art, so every prison movie would likely be a source of inspiration. There would be a sense that the characters were at once hyper aware they were in a fictional prison, while also having no awareness of the references they were making.
3. Jessica Lange Would Be The Warden
The warden would be an ever-present figure, beloved by the audience and hated by the inmates. Lange would be glorious in the role as she intimidated everyone while being fabulous.
4. So Many Musical Numbers
OITNB has had a couple of organic musical scenes, but under Murphy's reign, music would likely be far more important. I expect more time would be spent on Caputo's band, and he might even have channeled his musical frustrations into helping the women start their own singing group.
5. The Plot Would Move At Lightning Speed
Think of everything that has happened in the past three seasons of OITNB — and now cram it into one. Based off of his previous shows like Glee and Scream Queens, Murphy only knows one plot speed, and it's fast. There would be no slow burn of discovery as Piper figured out Alex ratted her out, Daya's baby would have been born in Season 1, and Vee would have been on the scene to cause conflict from the start.
6. More Sex And Violence
There's already a whole lot of sex going on, but there would be more if the show was Murphy's — and, it would be even more creative. As for the violence, if American Horror Story and Scream Queens is any indication, a prison setting would lead to more than the occasional beat down. Potential weapons would be everywhere, and there would probably be a prison fight club for the women to blow off steam in.
7. It Would Be An Anthology Series
Piper's story would be a one and done, and each successive season would focus on a new character, like a Martha Stewart surrogate or a Lindsay Lohan-esque character played by Emma Roberts.
Murphy's OITNB would be a heightened romp with more glitz, and maybe it would have been good in its own way — but still, Kohen is doing an amazing job of driving the OITNB bus, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Images: Netflix; Giphy (7)