A few weeks ago I was bemoaning the coming of summer and its absence of decent television. Frankly, the problem is becoming more acute. It is almost as if the main channels forgot there was no World Cup (bar the women’s, which despite being no doubt excellent was shunted off to minor channels) or Olympics, or even European Championships to show, and are no randomly cobbling together hours of filler until autumn comes and they can unleash series 29 of their staple reality/talent programme.

Again, I turn to Netflix, this time to Orange Is the New Black. This is the show that instantly comes into my head when I think of Netflix, largely because it is entirely their baby, and a highly successful one at that. There are several reasons to laud it: the cast is female-centric but not in a clicky-heels Sex and the City kind of way, and is ethnically diverse. It is perhaps showing us the still underlying racial tensions in the 21st-century Western world than most news and documentaries can.

Obviously this is all excellent stuff, but means nothing if it isn’t engaging and smart, which praise be it is. The thread of plots move along nicely and are well-paced, with short little wisps of stories like the mysterious chicken (which still has me howling with laughter) playing out alongside slowly unfurling narratives, like Bennet’s and Daya’s relationship, creeping up the intensity until you are sucked into it. The ability to move from black comedy to gut-wrenching tragedy is masterful, and a lesson to other dramas.

Such is its powers, the show has managed to make the main cast feel like friends. Of course, Piper is nominally our guide to everyone, but OITNB has long since moved on from being purely her story. We know how Doggett became an evangelical, right-wing Christian and the hypocrisy behind it, why Red is both powerful matriarch and partially responsible for her family’s plight and why Piper and Vause’s relationship is so fractured yet undeniably still there. The friendships within the cast feel real as well, as different ethnic groups rally round the weakest member of their gang to protect them from others.

There are those in the TV community who believe that within the next decade or so there will be no place for mainstream channels or in scheduling, that everything you want to watch will be uploaded to your smart TV at the start of the week and will be sitting there waiting for you to watch it, like one uber-Sky plus box. With the growth of Netflix and its rivals you can see why, and if it produces more programmes of this quality, I won’t be stopping it.

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