I wrote a comparison between the two series back in 2016 but I felt that an updated version is needed. Both shows now have 7 seasons on Netflix. Orange has finished (abbreviated to OITNB for ease) but Wentworth still has more seasons to come. I will do my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible but given the nature of both shows, it will be difficult. So this is your last warning for any spoilers (big or small) that might be ahead.
The biggest difference between OITNB and Wentworth is the overall tone of the series. OITNB is practically a sit com compared to Wentworth. Both stories center on the fact that it?s a women?s prison show. However, OITNB takes place in an American women?s prison and Wentworth is in Austrailia. You see this reflected in the differences in how the prisons are run and the day-to-day life of the prisoners.
OITNB overall does handle its emotional scenes well as well as the darker content. However, Wentworth is extremely dark and gritty in comparison. There is also much more graphic depictions of potentially disturbing content in Wentworth (assault, battery, drug usage, drug overdosage, domestic violence, suicide, just to name a few things across all seven seasons). The characters are very well done in both shows. We see a complex history for even the teritary character in many circumstances for both shows.
OITNB biggest downfall is the pacing for some seasons as well as having ?too many cooks in the kitchen? syndrome where they introduce so many characters that the overall flow of the show feels ?lost? or ?confused? on who and where to spend their focus on. It is no secret that OITNB had struggled for the past 2?3 seasons.
Looking at Wentworth, their overall pacing and plotting for their story has remained relatively strong across all seasons. Their writers have the guts to do risky things with both their plots and characters and the risk has payed off well.
The ?top dog? phenomena is one of the biggest plotpoints in Wentworth. We see that clearly in season 7 with OITNB and glimpses of it in past seasons for OITNB (nothing really like season 7 though for OITNB). While there have been a variety of top dogs in Wentworth, they all could have clearly wiped the floor with who was top dog in OITNB. The top dogs in OITNB never impressed me like the top dogs in Wentworth.
The sountrack for both shows are overall done very well. I?ve personally added a lot of the songs from both shows onto my own playlists for different moods I?m going through (both the happy emotions and ?negative? emotions like sad and angry). Both shows choose well for when to mute the scene audio and play music instead (or just keep everything silent).
One difficult thing about shooting in one setting consistently with little variety (like a prison) is keeping things interesting from a cinematography perspective. Both shows have done great things with the cinematography. They handle the zoom ins well and know how to draw focus to different things going on with the scene, guiding the viewer on what to focus on.
Statistically speaking, these are the statistics for women prisons in the USA: 1/56 women will be imprisoned in the USA, 1/111 ?white women? will be imprisoned, 1/18 ?black women? will be imprisoned, and 1/45 ?latina women? will be imprisoned (crimes vary across the spectrum for both violent and non-violent). Thank The Sentencing Project for these statistics. I tried looking into the demographic makeup for Australian prisons (women prisons specifically) but I was not able to find anything besides websites stating that the indinginous population was on the rise with increased imprisonment rates.
I bring up these demographics because it?s important to see if these shows prisons accurately reflect the racial demographic makeup of such a specific setting. The casting for the inmates in both OITNB and Wentworth are very diverse. There?s a transgender character in both OITNB and Wentworth (Sophia is actually played by a transgender actor as well) and both stories are handled very well. Maxine, the transgender character in Wentworth is not played by a trangender actor, but the actor did a fantastic job as Maxine. The actor for Maxine also stated that playing a transgender character gave them valuable insight to what transgender people go through and they didn?t hold prejudice against transgender people anymore, because of the role.
Overall, which show you prefer really depends on what kind of show you are looking to watch. Personally, I prefer Wentworth. A huge strength for it is the fact that they?re not afraid to take risks and that they?ve kept a very compelling and well paced narrative across seven seasons while OITNB has honestly struggled from time to time due to pacing and writing issues.