Oz Poster

Oz (1997)

Crime | Thriller 
Rayting:   8.7/10 88994 votes
Country: USA
Language: English

A series chronicling the daily activities of an unusual prison facility and its criminal inhabitants.

Episode Guide

Season 6

Season 5

Season 4

Season 3

Season 2

Season 1

Oz Trailer

User Reviews

cchase 2 February 2000

...if what you want is the usual depiction that passes for prison life in a dramatic format. No SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION here, folks, no benevolent GREEN MILE guards or saintly supernatural inmates. OZ tells it like it is, and baby, it ain't pretty.

Using at times a sense of hyper-realism, (in the narrations of the excellent Harold Perrineau, who serves as the show's conscience and Greek chorus), OZ shows us both the profane and profound aspects of prison life that we good, law-abiding citizens don't like to think about. We have the "authorities" to take care of that, don't we?

Exceptional art, no matter what the medium, has the ability to move us, make us think, make us feel both things we embrace and things we reject. The power this show has to polarize viewers into two different camps--love it or hate it--is proof enough that Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, the forces behind HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS, have fashioned something we haven't seen the likes of in a very long time.

I would strongly suggest that anyone who has not yet seen it give it a try, if you have HBO. Then I dare you to tear yourself away from it. It's rare television that makes you sit up, take notice, and actually care about even the minor characters in an ensemble such as this, no matter how heinous their crimes, or how street-and-battle-hardened their exteriors.

Augustus Hill, Simon Adebisi, Tobias Beecher, Vern Schillinger, Chris Keller, Jefferson Keane, Ryan O'Reilly, Kareem Said, Nino Schibetta, Bob Rebadow, Tim McManus, Warden Leo Glynn, Sister Peter-Marie, Father Ray, Officer Diane Wittlesey and all the others will imprint themselves on your memory and stay there, until you can't wait to find out what happens next.

A blend of black humor and outright horror, cutting commentary and the basest brutality, it is one of the very few shows being done now that can reveal the most majestic qualities of the human spirit. The ongoing struggle to resist surrendering to impulses and urges that cause the evil that men do, in the one place you would least expect to find any light--in a sea of human misery and darkness.

Danny_G13 23 July 2002

This is such a powerful show, superbly acted, that frankly I feel it's the best TV drama ever made. I know plenty of Hill Street Blues/NYPD Blue/Prime Suspect (etc) fans would enthusiastically argue this point, but I feel Oz is so well acted, so well realised and so darn entertaining that it's no contest. The characters are very watchable, the stories are gripping, and so much happens in each episode that the viewer has a lot of food for thought once the show is over. I'm currently at the 4th season being in UK, so I don't know the latest developments, but I got a lot of story to look forward to...

The fact it's also very satirical, particularly from Augustus Hill's commentary adds beautifully to the mix.

Nothing short of outstanding.

thensheappeared 20 July 2004

OK, it's violent and bloody and vicious and cruel. It's also wildly creative, beautifully filmed, brilliantly acted (with very few exceptions) and has a great framing device. The stories are both filled with detail and minutiae, and also have overarching moral tales and "big picture" flow. At the end of almost every episode you'll probably find yourself muttering "This is SUCH a good show!"

Although it is ostensibly the story of a prison and its many prisoners, 'Oz' can be viewed as primarily the story of one man, Tobias Beecher. Beecher has committed vehicular manslaughter while driving drunk. Because Beecher is a lawyer, the court decides to make an example of him and sends him to maximum security at Oswald Penitentiary. His journey through Oz is basically the rest of the series, and it's certainly no yellow brick road he follows. Everything that you could imagine happening in a prison setting happens, and probably a lot you wouldn't imagine.

He gets assigned to "Em" City (Emerald City), an experimental unit in Oz; the goal of Em City is to try a different living environment, one that might give the prisoners a chance at changing their lives and possibly rehabilitate them. Managed by a true prison reform zealot, Tim McManus, Em City is for many prisoners the only hope in their lives. The inmates of Em City are some of the most brutal offenders in the entire penitentiary - McManus insists that these are the prisoners to try to reach. McManus also picks newer prisoners, ones that don't have life sentences, to add to the mix and to give them a shot at rehabilitation.

Every episode has a storyteller - most of the time the storyteller is Augustus Hill, shot while killing a cop and now confined to a wheelchair. Because he is unable to be physically brutal anymore, because he is more imprisoned than even his fellow prisoners, Augustus is very insightful and is used to heighten and clarify themes for the audience.

The other inmates in Em City all have their own character development and story arcs - some are impressively vibrant but brief, others last for the whole series - but ultimately the writers always return to Beecher and his story. His friends (few), his enemies (many), his family, and his relationships with the prison staff.

Amid the worst that prison can dish out, the inmates struggle with the meaning of religion, with definitions of family, with the corruption of politics, with friendship, betrayal, and ultimately, survival. There are moments of sheer wanton destruction, unspeakable violence, shocking cruelty, and pure evil. It's prison! There is nothing glorified here; inmates do drugs to escape the horror of their realities, gangs murder each other over trivialities, inmates and guards commit rape just because they can. But how they manage to survive - and IF they manage to survive - keeps you watching.

Some key performances: The always perfect J.K. Simmons as Schillinger, the leader of the Aryans; Chris Meloni as Chris Keller (quite a different part than his character on L&O: SVU!); Lee Tergesen as Beecher; Eamonn Walker as Said, the leader of the Muslims; Dean and Scott Winters (real-life brothers) as Ryan and Cyril O'Reilly; and Kirk Acevedo as Miguel Alvarez, a member of the Latinos. But honestly, the whole cast is excellent. Even most of the "guest starring" roles - new inmates who practically have an expiration date stamped on them - are good, and at least are pretty interesting.

girardi_is_god 13 February 2003

On HBO, all the Emmy's for hard core drama go to THE SOPRANOS, and I dont' think that's bad. It is a great show. But Oz is better. It might well be the best thing on television. It doesn't get the press of the Sopranos. And the other people who watch HBO (those who don't like all the violence) whould much rather watch Ferris Beuller's wife in SEX AND THE CITY, which I will NEVER watch. Oz is amazing because almost every charachter in it's sea of people is in some way a terrible human being. But the magic of this show is that these terrible people become understandable. They do terrible things, but they are not all bad. Ryan O'Rielly, for example, is a cold-blooded killer. But when it comes to his brother and doctor Nathan, and more recently the priest he befriended, he is a warm and caring person who's pain you empathize with. Oz takes murderers, rapists, thieves, and even a rich lawyer who ran down a young girl in a drunken stuper, and makes them likeable and forgivable. That's incredible. And this show is incredible. It goes off the air soon for good, and I wish it had gotten the respect it deserved.

Evan Locci 4 December 1998

Consistently well-written and acted, Oz is without a doubt the best thing on TV. Quality wise, it's up there with the first 4 seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street as the most compelling hour of television drama. Presenting a harsh and realistic view of prison life, Oz is a wonderful mixture of superb acting and character development; all of which rides on a nuanced and erudite core (Foucault's Panopticon is the inspiration for Em City's design...and ultimate failure). It is the only show on TV, that I can think of, that has presented characters who were intensely dislikable one moment and oddly empathetic the next. That I am repulsed by, sympathetic with, intrigued about, and involved with every character that has lived, died or survived on the show, is no small feat. Good TV exists. And, for my money, Oz is not only good TV, it is better than most films released throughout the year.

saffrin 5 June 1999

There was nothing on and I switched on HBO and got hooked on OZ. It is like nothing I have ever seen before. The characters are real and are well acted. By the end of my first episode I was hooked. I find myself wanting to know more about each character and what makes them tick. This is a definite must see show.

xtremeguy 6 February 2008

Oz is set in Oswald State Correctional Facility. It tells the story of confrontation, cruelty, violence, hate and survival at any cost. in a place like Oz, you have to have eyes in the back of your head.

This completely original, intelligent and compelling drama tells of how warped life becomes as soon as you step through the gates of Emerald City.

What is supposed to be a state of art correctional facility is in fact far from being such. The show brings to light some of the many flaws in the prison system, the underestimating of the humanity that cold hard killers are capable of still retaining, and the one true fact: The prisoners are the one's who control the prison.

This magnificent and somewhat surreal show teaches about the importance of every life and helps give an understanding to the reasons that most of the prisoners are there. This show may seem shocking at first but to truly tell it like it is, such a thing is necessary.

Oz is a great depiction of hell on earth and how such a place teaches you some of the most important lessons you will ever learn.

budmassey 19 January 2003

The stature of this program must be measured in the context of its format. These are not feature films, but one hour dramas, no different in concept or constraint from countless other network counterparts. But, oh how different in result.

Oz is not for everyone. It is violent, lurid, obscene, profane and controversial. Oz us narrated dramatically by a "Greek Chorus" of inmates who make insightful observations not just about Oz, but applicable to the outside world as well. The talent, none of it marquee, is nonetheless the finest assembly of supporting actors an ensemble cast could hope for.

In order to keep ratings up, the stories sometimes veer into the unbelievable, but the grit and reality are never gone for long. Oz is also a bundle of irony. Although it deals with homosexuality with insight and objectivity in every episode, it just as often bristles with gratuitous homoerotic overtone. Despite the fact that it overflows with action and violence, it never mistakes kenesis for story.

Sometimes, Oz borders on, and crosses well into, genius. Its often surreal direction elevates otherwise base events to sublime levels. Music, pacing, convoluted story lines careening and intersecting in ways that are at the same time graceful and clumbsy, just like real life.

This is said to be the last season of Oz, and yet, only two seasons are on DVD. With constant reruns and each episode being aired about a dozen times a week, you may be tired of this jewel anyway, but its influence will elevate the level of television drama for years to come.

DiCaprio-HardyFan 21 March 2020

This is one of HBO's first big hits and is still one of not only HBO's best but one of the best in general! Oz will hook you from the very first episode through the finale and every episode is great!

Sparkle13 29 March 2005

Oz is, flat-out, one of the best series I have ever seen. It is filled with characters that you "love to hate," always intriguing story lines, mind-blowing plot twists and just awesome acting. I think that Oz isn't recognized or critically acclaimed as much as it deserves. I watch that show and I forget that they are actors, it is that convincing! You just get sucked into it and if you're like me, you just want MORE!! I can't get enough of it! I love the fact that it has a rotating cast of "main" characters that is always well above 25. Oz does a very good job of focusing due attention on all the characters individually, as well as their many complex interactions with others. I have to say, I have the hots for about 75% of the cast, hehe. Oz is definitely worth seeing but also it is not for the fainthearted. There is gratuitous violence, foul language, and nudity/sex. But hey, it is a great show and the above named only help show the grit of prison life.

The_Wood 27 January 2002

Oz, no Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore. Oz is the television show that pushed the limits in what you can get away with on television. Oz is real and violent, and it also makes for the single best series on TV, ever. With performance that grab attention, and some of the best direction ever on TV, Oz should be watched by ritual.

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