PIPER Chapman (Taylor Schilling) wallows in domestic bliss with her fiancé Larry (Jason Biggs) in New York until her cosy existence implodes.

She is sentenced to 15 months in prison for carrying drugs money a decade earlier for her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon).

Separated from the man she adores, Piper meekly accepts her punishment and struggles to click with her cellmate, Miss Claudette (Michelle Hurst), and fearsome top dog, Galina Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew).

Social worker Sam Healy (Michael J Harney) feels desperately sorry for Piper and aids her induction but even he cannot prepare Piper for the shock of discovering that old flame Alex is incarcerated in the same prison.

Based on Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name, Orange Is The New Black is a beautifully scripted comedy drama.

It nimbly cuts back and forth between inmates and staff as they struggle to co-exist behind bars.

The 13 episodes are well paced and threaded with black humour, exploring the ripples from past and present through a deftly constructed patchwork of flashbacks.

The claustrophobic setting intensifies the churn of emotions, leaving us hankering for more including a cliffhanger ending to the concluding episode.

Performances are exemplary across the board, not least Schilling, who accepts her sentence as a wide-eyed innocent and learns that kindness is in desperately short supply on the inside.

Screen chemistry with Prepon smoulders and Mulgrew is terrific as the formidable queen of the prison canteen.