6 Great Prison Shows That Aren’t Orange Is The New Black

The fourth season of Netflix’s hit prison drama, Orange Is The New Black, hits our screens today, so get ready to binge-watch the incarcerated adventures of Piper & Co.

The show is increasingly dark as prison changes the human marshmallow that was Piper Chapman at the start of Season One, but it’s popularity comes from more than that. It’s sharp, funny and fresh. It explores issues that don’t get a lot of attention in other shows, especially when it comes to LGBT representation. It’s also one of the few shows that is truly female-fronted (and backed, and sideways-ed) and impressively diverse without making either of those elements the focal point.

It’s incredible.


However, it’s only got thirteen episodes per season, and a determined binge-watcher can manage that in a single sitting. Which means that for the other 364 days of the year, fans are stuck twiddling their thumbs and anxiously waiting for the next season to start.

Or, instead of doing that, you could get your prison-flavored fix by working your way through these other six shows. They may not be quite the same, but each of these will definitely fill that orange-jumpsuit-shaped hole that will be left in our lives when Season 4, Episode 13 comes to an end.

Prison Break


Not only is this just an incredible show, but it’s coming back to TV, so if you haven’t already fallen in love with Prison Break, now is the time. Starring Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, the series is an incredibly fast paced drama about a meticulously planned breakout. Political intrigue, genius-level planning, and a cliffhanger at the end of each episode make this addictive viewing. And, with nearly 100 episodes to date, there’s a lot of it. This could definitely keep you occupied for the rest of the summer.

Bad Girls


Before the inmates of Litchfield won our hearts, there was another fictional women’s prison receiving critical acclaim: HMP Larkhall. Larkhall is the setting for this critically acclaimed British drama about female staff and inmates, and it deserves more praise than it usually gets on this side of the pond. Not afraid to deal with controversial issues, the show deals with drugs, pregnancy, relationships, abuses of power, contraband and crises of faith. Like OITNB, Bad Girls involves a whole lot of bad language and sexual references, and it’s the perfect Brit counterpart to Jenji Kohan’s series.

Alcatraz


If you’d rather not invest in a long-running series, the short-but-sweet Alcatraz is a perfect choice. Blending together criminal cases and a time-travel mystery, the show finds a group of secret agents tasked with finding missing guards and prisoners who disappeared from the island prison of Alcatraz. Of course, they disappeared in 1963, which makes things just a little bit more interesting. It’s got a great cast, a truly original premise, and a surprising amount of humor (to balance out all the darkness that is Alcatraz). Sadly, it was cancelled after the first season, but it’s still a fantastic watch.

Hogan’s Heroes


The original prisoner comedy, Hogan’s Heroes first aired in the 1960s, and stars comedy legends (such as Bob Crane) as the inmates of a POW camp during World War II. You might think that that would make for something of a depressing premise, but Hogan’s Heroes is probably the most lighthearted offering on this list! The prisoners are actually working as spies, and the officers holding them are hilariously inept – which makes for a gloriously campy classic show.

Breakout Kings


Who better to catch a criminal than a bunch of criminals? That’s the premise of this short-lived (but fun) series. Starring Jimmi Simpson and Domenick Lombardozzi, the show brings together US Marshalls and unrepentant convicts as a task force to find prison escapees. The chemistry between the characters is fantastic, as Breakout Kings combines odd-couple comedy with an ensemble drama. The premise sets it apart from the usual cop dramas, and although it actually takes place primarily outside the prison walls, it’s still a fantastic prisoner drama.

Oz


The gold standard for prison dramas, Oz was the first one-hour dramatic series produced by HBO – with all the violence, full frontal nudity and foul language that we have come to expect from the network. Set in an experimental facility within a maximum security prison, the show is brimming with references to the Wizard of Oz – and although that might sound strange, it works beautifully. The show combines some of the more brutal elements of prison life with the quirky humor of the wheelchair-bound narrator, creating a deeply disturbing but wonderfully watchable series.

Orange Is The New Black: Season 5

If you watched every one of these six shows, plus the new season of Orange Is The New Black, you would have four hundred and seventy episodes of prison-based television to get through. Which means that we’ve just provided you with enough TV to get all the way through to Season 5 of Orange is the New Black, without ever having to watch something that isn’t about strangely likeable criminals.

You’re Welcome!

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Writer, cosplayer and all around nerd. @RoseMooreWrites