You know when you discover an amazing T.V. series and tell your friends about it, describing some of its finer points, be it the acting, the plot twists or in this case how in every episode without fail someone gets raped and/or murdered…usually both! You say this with excitement as you remember that first eye-gouging scene that had you more hooked than the eyeball itself.
Well friends, if you were too young to be allowed to watch naughty things on T.V. in the 1990s it’s due time to revisit Tom Fontana’s dramatic thriller, Oz.
These days it’s so easy to smash through a box-set in a matter of weeks that it stands to reason that some of the old gems are being re-watched via the almighty web. Oz certainly stands the test of time and rates at number 17 on IMBD’s best TV series chart. Fans of Breaking Bad and The Sopranos (some would call us sadists) will be right at home with the intense themes of crime, hierarchy, revenge and redemption. There are a few romances thrown in for good measure but don´t worry, they’re far from soppy.
OZ, short for Oswald, chronicles the trials and tribulations of everyday life for the prisoners in Emerald City – an experimental wing of a maximum-security penitentiary.
I tend to rag on a lot of American cinema but Oz is so much more punchy than most of the stuff out there, it´s like the Arrested Development of the Drama genre. Coarse language, drug use, violence, frontal nudity, homosexuality, as well as ethnic and religious conflict…What´s not to like!
The grainy 1990s production quality only adds to its old-school appeal and your HD-spoiled eyes will have adjusted just fine by the time the first guy is burnt alive.
Oz contains twists that will literally send chills down your spine, partly through the gruesome depiction of prison life but mostly from scriptwriting that is usually reserved for feature length films. If you need a little comic relief I suggest bumping in a Seinfeld episode between series to keep with the late 90´s feel. That Kramer, he really could light up a room before he got all shouty and racist…
Christopher Meloni, mostly known for his work on Law and Order, and Lee Tergesen (also on L & O) make for a couple of extremely convincing main characters with a love/hate relationship that will have you shouting at the T.V. like my Grandma watching the cricket.
Other notable characters are JK Simmons, Dean Winters and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabaje.
I´m happy to announce that it actually made it to a final episode rather than being axed like too many promising series that were put out to pasture before their time.
I developed an addict-like obsession with OZ. Unsatisfied with just one dose a day in the form of an hour episode I had to have it several times, and like so many textbook junkies, ended up stealing a DVD player to support my habit. (Actually, it was an accident because the place I had hired it from was closed when I went to take it back and I had a flight to catch).
This is a great show to watch with a group of like-minded voyeurs. That way when you have taken on a number of strange new habits like hunching over to eat your gruel, making shanks out of anything and everything or shouting out “SHAKEDOWN!” at inappropriate times, people won’t be too concerned.