April 7, 2013



ORPHAN BLACK:  Saturday 9PM on BBCAmerica

The second hour of BBCAmerica’s ORPHAN BLACK continued to keep up the pace while gradually revealing its secrets.  The very hardworking Tatiana Maslany this time got to add German and soccer mom accents to her repertoire, as the base character of Sarah met yet more of her lookalikes, and not altogether pleasant ones at that (the German’s head was blown off almost immediately, and the soccer mom at various times held a knife and gun on her).  Sarah also had to convincingly impersonate dead policewoman Beth, outsmart a department shrink and avoid both her own ex-boyfriend and Beth’s, all in an hour.

The danger, of course, is that once it’s time for series co-creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett (Manson writes, Fawcett directs) to finally put the show’s cards on the table, the revelation won’t live up to the juggling act that’s preceded it.  And there are definitely aspects of the show that creak, particularly Sarah’s very gay foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and her abusive but sentimental scumbag ex Vic (Michael Mando).  It’s also unclear at this point why, other than loyalty to the network’s home country, the show needed the additional complication of Sarah, Felix and their former guardian Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who now looks after Sarah’s daughter, having had to relocate from England to wherever in North America the show is set (it’s shot in Canada, and that’s where most of the cast, including Maslany, hail from).

For now, though, it’s all good fun, anchored by Maslany’s impressive feat of shuffling multiple roles in a single episode.  Holding off on the sci-fi portions of the story for as long as possible has been a good strategy, with the result that whatever is to come, the storyline should feel rooted in something like recognizable reality.  Although BBCAmerica’s numbers are small even by cable network standards, its Saturday of Doctor Who, Orphan Black and the talk-show The Nerdist had a strong start last week, and with the broadcast networks barely even bothering on Saturdays, the field is fairly open.  Whatever may befall Orphan Black for the rest of its run, it’s certainly more enjoyable than Smash (and only slightly more far-fetched).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."