Genre: Drama / Crime
Starring: Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Dean Winters, George Morfogen
It’s no place like home
Welcome to the Oswald State Correctional Facility, also known by the nickname “Oz”, where we are invited to get an inside look at life behind bars. Oz is a maximum security prison located in New York with an own level called “Emerald City” where the inmates have more freedom in order to learn responsibility and being able to socialize peacefully with others.
That’s of course how it is meant to be in Emerald City. The reality is that there is a constant power struggle between the different cliques that are broken into the Homeboys, the Wiseguys, the Muslims, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Bikers, the Gays, the Irish and the Latinos. And you can also add the correctional officers as another gang as they are not exactly law abiding citizens themselves.
Oz is a television show that ran on HBO from 1997 to 2003 that was hyped up as being “edgy”, which it was and I guess still is. There’s way more male nudity and homosexual scenes in this show than in anything else I have ever seen. Although violence is acceptable in TV today, back in the late 90’s it wasn’t so common to see rough violence on the small screen, so Oz should probably get some “props” for paving the way for more violence and nudity on TV.
Each episode opens and ends with a monologue done by August Hill (Harold Perrineau), an ex-gangbanger in a wheelchair who has seen the faults of his life. He brings up the theme that will play a loose part of the episode, and after we have seen the events that take place in the episode he summarizes the theme and brings everything full circle.
All the main prisoner characters are introduced with wild clips of what they did to end up in prison in the first place. These are all very original and wicked clips that allows the filmmakers to try out something new and also give us a feeling of what this new character will be about. And it is the colorful characters in this prison that makes the show worth your time.
Even if these are criminals that constantly bring pain to others, it is still hard not to get attached to some of them regardless of how long or short they stay in Oz will turn out to be. There’s plenty of layers to most of them and while there are some that are just dirt evil, there are also others that you feel have all the tools needed to actually be successful in life.
Most of the storylines are fun, even though they of course do make some mistakes over the six seasons of the show. The storyline with Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) and Chris Keller (Chris Meloni) could have ended a lot quicker. The aging drug storyline is also a result of very poor judgement, but other than that most of the new stories are fun and interesting. And it is also a very consistent show as it has very few low points during its years.
The production values are a bit low, especially compared to what we are getting from TV shows these days. Even if there’s a bigger push behind TV shows these days and there are plenty of great new shows to check out, I will still recommend giving Oz a chance as it is still one of the best shows that HBO has ever produced… and that’s not a small badge of honor.