Oz (TV series)
Oz title card
|Created by||Tom Fontana|
|Written by||Tom Fontana
J. K. Simmons
|Theme music composer||Steve Rosen
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||56 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Tom Fontana
Mark A. Baker
|Running time||55 minutes|
|Production company(s)||The Levinson/Fontana Company
HBO Original Programming
|Original run||July 12, 1997– February 23, 2003|
Oz is an American television drama series created by Tom Fontana, who also wrote or co-wrote all of the series' 56 episodes. It was the first one-hour dramatic television series to be produced by the premium cable network HBO. Oz premiered on July 12, 1997, and ran for six seasons. The series finale aired February 23, 2003.
"Oz" is the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility, formerly Oswald State Penitentiary, a fictional maximum-security prison (level 4) in New York, given the New York State Flag and motto ("Excelsior") seen in the background when public officials are shown speaking publicly. There are also references to "upstate", which is commonly used in New York. The prison is most likely named after New York Commissioner of Correctional Services Russell George Oswald, who was the head of New York's penal system at the time of Attica Prison riot. The character Tim McManus refers to Attica as his hometown and the riot as his original impetus for his wanting to set up Emerald City.
The nickname "Oz" is a reference to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, which popularized the phrase, "There's no place like home"; in contrast, the series has used the tagline: "It's no place like home".
The majority of Oz's story arcs are set in "Emerald City", named for a setting from The Wizard of Oz. In this experimental unit of the prison, unit manager Tim McManus emphasizes rehabilitation and learning responsibility during incarceration, rather than carrying out purely punitive measures. Emerald City is an extremely controlled environment, with a carefully managed number of members of each racial and social group, with the hope of easing tensions among these various groups.
Under McManus and Warden Leo Glynn, all inmates in Em City struggle to fulfill their own needs. Some fight for power – either over the drug trade or over other inmate factions and individuals. Others, corrections officers and inmates alike, simply want to survive, some long enough to make parole and others even just to see the next day. The show offers a no-holds-barred account of prison life. All plots, subplots and conflicts are given context and explanation by the show's wheelchair-bound narrator, Augustus Hill.
Oz chronicles McManus' attempts to keep control over the inmates of Em City. There are many groups of inmates throughout the show and not everyone within each group survives the show's events. There are the African American Homeboys (Wangler, Redding, Poet, Keane, Supreme Allah) and Muslims (Said, Arif, Hamid Khan), the Wiseguys (Pancamo, Nappa, Schibetta, Zanghi, Urbano), the Aryan Brotherhood (Schillinger, Robson, Mark Mack), the Latinos of El Norte (Alvarez, Morales, Guerra, Hernandez), the Irish (the O'Reily brothers), the gays (Hanlon, Cramer), the bikers (Hoyt, Sands), and many other individuals not completely affiliated with one particular group (Rebadow, Busmalis, Keller, Stanislofsky). In contrast to the dangerous criminals, character Tobias Beecher gives a look at a usually law-abiding man who made one fatal drunk-driving mistake. Inmate Augustus Hill provides the show with context, thematic analysis, and a sense of humor.
The ensemble cast included Christopher Meloni, Ernie Hudson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Harold Perrineau Jr., Eamonn Walker, Rita Moreno, Terry Kinney, Betty Buckley, Kathryn Erbe, Lee Tergesen, B. D. Wong, J.D. Williams, J. K. Simmons, Dean Winters, Scott William Winters, Kirk Acevedo, Erik King, Evan Seinfeld, David Zayas, Lauren Vélez, Otto Sanchez, Robert Clohessy, and Edie Falco.
Cast and characters
|Ernie Hudson||Warden Leo Glynn||Starring|
|Terry Kinney||Tim McManus||Starring|
|Harold Perrineau Jr.||Augustus Hill||Starring|
|Eamonn Walker||Kareem Saïd||Starring|
|Kirk Acevedo||Miguel Alvarez||Also Starring||Starring|
|Rita Moreno||Sister Peter Marie Reimondo||Also Starring||Starring|
|J.K. Simmons||Vernon Schillinger||Also Starring||Starring|
|Lee Tergesen||Tobias Beecher||Also Starring||Starring|
|Dean Winters||Ryan O'Reily||Also Starring||Starring|
|Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje||Simon Adebisi||Guest||Also Starring||Starring|
|Edie Falco||Officer Diane Whittlesey||Also Starring||Guest|
|Sean Whitesell||Donald Groves||Also Starring|
|Tony Musante||Nino Schibetta||Also Starring|
|B.D. Wong||Father Ray Mukada||Also Starring|
|Leon Robinson||Jefferson Keane||Also Starring||Guest|
|Jon Seda||Dino Ortolani||Guest||Guest|
|George Morfogen||Bob Rebadow||Guest||Also Starring|
|J. D. Williams||Kenny Wangler||Guest||Also Starring|
|Željko Ivanek||Governor James Devlin||Guest||Also Starring|
|Lauren Vélez||Dr. Gloria Nathan||Guest||Also Starring|
|Rick Fox||Jackson Vahue||Guest||Also Starring||Also Starring|
|muMs da Schemer||Arnold "Poet" Jackson||Guest||Also Starring|
|Granville Adams||Zahir Arif||Guest||Also Starring|
|Eddie Malavarca||Peter Schibetta||Guest||Guest|
|Tom Mardirosian||Agamemnon Busmalis||Guest||Also Starring|
|Kathryn Erbe||Shirley Bellinger||Guest||Also Starring||Guest|
|Christopher Meloni||Chris Keller||Guest||Also Starring|
|Scott William Winters||Cyril O'Reily||Guest||Also Starring|
|Sean Dugan||Timmy Kirk||Guest||Guest||Also Starring|
|Austin Pendleton||William Giles||Guest||Also Starring|
|Luis Guzmán||Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez||Guest||Also Starring|
|Mark Margolis||Antonio Nappa||Guest||Also Starring||Guest|
|Chuck Zito||Chucky Pancamo||Guest||Also Starring|
|Evan Seinfeld||Jaz Hoyt||Guest||Also Starring|
|R.E. Rogers||James Robson||Guest||Also Starring|
|Otto Sanchez||Carmen Guerra||Guest||Also Starring|
|Philip Casnoff||Nikolai Stanislofsky||Also Starring|
|Robert Clohessy||Officer Sean Murphy||Also Starring|
|Seth Gilliam||Officer Clayton Hughes||Also Starring|
|Kristin Rohde||Officer Claire Howell||Also Starring|
|Kevin Conway||Seamus O'Reily||Guest||Also Starring|
|Charles Busch||Nathaniel 'Nat' Ginzburg||Guest||Also Starring|
|David Zayas||Enrique Morales||Also Starring|
|Reg E. Cathey||Martin Querns||Also Starring||Guest|
|Erik King||Moses Deyell||Also Starring|
|Lance Reddick||Johnny Basil / Desmond Mobay||Also Starring|
|Lord Jamar||'Supreme Allah' / Kevin Ketchum||Also Starring|
|Michael Wright||Omar White||Also Starring|
|Anthony Chisholm||Burr Redding||Also Starring|
|Luke Perry||Jeremiah Cloutier||Also Starring|
|Betty Buckley||Suzanne Fitzgerald||Also Starring|
|Blake Robbins||Officer Dave Brass||Guest||Also Starring|
|Patti Lupone||Stella Coffa||Also Starring|
|Joel Grey||Lemuel Idzik||Also Starring|
|Bobby Cannavale||Alonzo Torquemada||Also Starring|
Oz took advantage of the freedoms of premium cable to show elements of coarse language, drug use, violence, male frontal nudity, homosexuality and male rape, as well as ethnic and religious conflicts that would have been unacceptable to traditional American broadcast television.
International broadcast history
In Australia, Oz was screened uncensored on the free-to-air channel, SBS. This was also the case in Israel, where Oz was displayed on the free-to-air commercial Channel 2; in Italy, where it was aired on the free-to-air Italia 1; in the United Kingdom, where Channel 4 aired the show late at night; in Ireland, where the series aired on free-to-air channel TG4 at 11 p.m.; and in Brazil, where it was aired by the SBT Network Corporation, also late at night.
In the Netherlands, Oz aired on the commercial channel RTL 5. In Sweden and Norway, it aired on the commercial channels TV3 and ZTV late at night, and in Finland, on the free-to-air channel Nelonen (TV4). In Canada, Oz aired on the Showcase Channel at Friday 10 p.m. EST. In Denmark, it appeared late at night on the non-commercial public service channel DR1. In Spain, the show aired on premium channel Canal+. In Estonia, as well as Croatia and Slovenia, the show was aired late at night on public, non-commercial, state-owned channels ETV, HRT and RTV SLO. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was aired on the federal TV station called FTV. In Portugal, Oz aired late at night on SIC Radical, one of the SIC channels in the cable network. In France, the show aired on commercial cable channel 'Serie Club,' also late at night. In Turkey, Oz was aired on Cine5; DiziMax also aired the re-runs. In Serbia, Oz aired on RTV BK Telecom. In Panama, Oz aired on RPCTV Channel 4 in a late-night hour. In Malaysia, full episodes of Oz aired late at night on ntv7, while the censored version aired during the day. In New Zealand Oz aired on The Box at 9.30pm on Wednesdays in the early 2000s (decade).
On April 21, 2009, Variety announced that starting May 31, DirecTV will broadcast all 56 episodes in their original form without commercials and in up-scaled "high definition" on The 101 Network available to all subscribers. The episodes will also be available through DirecTV's On Demand service.
The series was co-produced by HBO and Rysher Entertainment, and the underlying U.S. rights lie with HBO, which has released the entire series on DVD in North America. The international rights were owned originally by Rysher, then Paramount Pictures/Domestic Television after that company acquired Rysher. CBS Studios International currently owns the international TV rights, and Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS DVD owns the international DVD rights.
HBO Home Video has released all six seasons of Oz on DVD in Region 1 and Region 2. The Region 1 releases contain numerous special features including commentaries, deleted scenes and featurettes. The Region 2 releases do not contain any special features.
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4||BBFC||ACB|
|The Complete First Season||
||March 19, 2002 (DVD & VHS)||February 5, 2007||February 15, 2007||15||MA 15+|
|The Complete Second Season||
||January 7, 2003 (DVD & VHS)||August 6, 2007||August 16, 2007||18||MA 15+|
|The Complete Third Season||
||February 24, 2004||October 29, 2007||November 8, 2007||18||MA 15+|
|The Complete Fourth Season||
||February 1, 2005||March 3, 2008||March 20, 2008||18||MA 15+|
|The Complete Fifth Season||
||June 21, 2005||June 30, 2008||June 19, 2008||18||MA 15+|
|The Complete Sixth Season||
||September 5, 2006||September 22, 2008||September 18, 2008||18||MA 15+|
|The Complete Series
||September 5, 2006 (Special Edition)||September 7, 2009 (The Emerald City Collection)||N/A||18||N/A|
Oz has been ranked a 70 based on the rating aggregator website Metacritic, with generally favorable reviews by critics. James Caryn from the New York Times stated that "Set almost entirely in the prison, a high-tech horror with glass-walled cells, Oz can also be unpleasant to watch, gruesome and claustrophobic. Yet as the series moves beyond its introductory shock value, it becomes more serious, disturbing and gripping. Even for likely fans the series is not perfect" and that "its depiction of guilty men in torturous circumstances, is never subtle, but complicated and strong". Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote "Engaging, often Brutal". Other reviews were more critical of the series. Frederic Bidle said "A pretentious exercise in cheap thrills, by great talents allowed to run amok". Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times reports "Its unique and arresting style don't earn endorsements here.. there's no light at the end of the tunnel, or a tunnel- that offer central characters to root or pull for... Be forewarned that Oz is flat-out the most violent and graphically sexual series on TV."
A soundtrack containing East Coast, West Coast and Southern hip hop was released on January 9, 2001 by Avatar Records. It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Soundtrack Charts, #42 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The soundtrack featured the song "Behind the Walls" recorded by Kurupt & Nate Dogg which hit #1 at many radio stations in the US according to BDS.
- Season 1, Episode 2, DVD Commentary on "Oz: The Complete First Season."
- Season 2, Episode 5, "Oz: The Complete Second Season."
- Adam Dunn (21 February 2003). "The end of 'Oz'". CNN. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- "Oz Production Notes". Retrieved 2010-08-05.
- Bruce Fretts (11 July 1997). "Nasty As He Wanna Be". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- "The New Classics: TV". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 2007. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
- MICHAEL SCHNEIDER (20 April 2009). "'Oz,' 'Deadwood' join DirecTV". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- "Oz Season 1". Metacritic.
- Caryn, James. "High Tech Prison and the Face of Horrors". New York Times.
- "Oz Season 1". Metacritic.
- Biddle, Frederick. "Metacritic". Boston Globe.
- Rosenberg, Howard. "Metacritic". Los Angeles Times.
- Steve Rosen
Dave Darlington. "Oz – Original Soundtrack (2001)". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- Stemple, Lara (2007). "HBO's OZ and the Fight against Prisoner Rape: Chronicles from the Front Line". In Merri Lisa Johnson. Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box. London: I.B. Tauris. pp. 166–188. ISBN 1-84511-245-8. OCLC 72151012.
- HarperEntertainment (2003). Oz: behind these walls: the journal of Augustus Hill. New York: HarperEntertainment. ISBN 0-06-052133-3. OCLC 51241977.[page needed]
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