LOS ANGELES - Netflix's hit women's prison drama "Orange Is The New Black" got something of an early release Thursday, when the American streaming giant debuted the third season a few hours ahead of schedule.
The critically-acclaimed show, which has attracted a global following, had initially been set for release on Friday at midnight but Netflix launched the new season a few hours before, making it available to 60 million subscribers worldwide.
In the latest season, Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, faces what remains of her sentence at Litchfield prison without the support of her fiance, who has left her for her best friend.
This allows Piper's romance with Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) to develop.
The lives of the actresses have changed considerably since the show debuted two years ago and became a hit, especially for Laverne Cox, a transgender actress who plays Sophia Burset.
"A lot of people have told me this character has saved their life," Cox recently told journalists in Los Angeles, explaining that many people who struggled with gender identity issues drew strength from her example.
"The stories are very compelling and the characters are very compelling," Cox said.
The show has highlighted the problems faced by women prisoners in the United States, and also some of the social issues confronted by minorities in the country.