Thursday, August 11, 2011


The main cast of Oz
So over the last couple of months I really haven’t been very active with this blog. This is mostly due to me being completely obsessed with the late 90’s prison drama Oz. My only recollection of Oz from when I was a kid is that it used to come on right before Red Shoe Diaries on Canada’s ShowCase station. I had no idea of the amazing show that I was missing. Fast-forward to just a few months ago and while looking for prison shows online (which I often do) I discovered Oz and was totally enamoured.

Oz was HBO’s first 1 hour dramatic program and ran from 1997-2003. Oz focus’ on the prisoners of the Oswald State Maximum Security Penitentiary, focusing mainly on the experimental unit known as “Emerald City” [the shows tagline was: “There’s no place like home.”].  Oz starred Harold Perrineau (The Matrix) as Augustuce Hill, Lee Targesen (Wayne`s World, Generation Kill) as Tobias ``Toby`` Beacher, J.K. Simmons (Juno, and like every TV show) as Vern Schillinger, Dean Winters (Law and Order: SVU, 30 Rock) as Ryan O`Reilly and a cast of more than a dozen characters that make this show amazing.

From the beginning Oz is narrated by prisoner Augustuce Hill (also a regular character in the shows story line) who is a wheel-chair bound recovering drug addict who’s serving line in prison for killing a SWAT officer. The narration occurs several times during each 1 hour episodes and usually features Augustuce Hill in a floating glass box is very odd surreal scenarios.  The narration plays such a huge role in the show and it’s effective way of storytelling.

The main prisoners in the series live in an experimental unit called Emerald City which (for most of the series) is operated by Tim McManus (Terry Kinney). Em City was created to give certain chosen prisoners a more satisfying life and more of a chance of rehabilitation from drugs and the criminal methodology.  Of course this is not the case. Oz is completely controlled by the brutal racial gangs: The Homeboys, The Arian Brotherhood, El Norte, The Irish and the not so violent Muslims and Christians. The gangs use their power to control the flow of drugs into the prison (heroin being the big drug in Oz) and with the sale and trafficking of drugs comes murder and violence.
Agustuce Hill continued his job an narrator even after his death
You could say that the main character in Oz is Tobias Beacher (a lawyer and father of 2 who was convicted of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter and serving 15 years) . The show begins with his journey into Oz and the deceit and pain he walks into almost immediately. Upon arrival Tobias is bunked with the leader of the Black gang The Homeboys who immediately begins to harass and threaten the scared meek Tobias. Arian Brotherhood (Nazi) leader Vern Shillinger sees what’s going on and swoops in offering the bunk in his pod. Tobias is automatically made the “bitch” of Shillinger and is continuously raped and humiliated forcing him to do heroin to numb the pain.  After a while Toby gets his hands on some PCP, goes absolutely batshit crazy, breaks the glass on his cell and stabs Vern right in the eye. And then after knocking him to the ground and *cough* defecates right on his face.

This is only one example of the rawness of Oz. Every season...every episode even, includes events that will completely spin your head. Every episode of this show feels like an entire movie in a saga. The way the show is balanced so that every group and every main character is progressed and followed through accordingly is almost mind blowing at times.

Ryan O'Reilly - Probably plotting someones death
I could go on for hours going into each character and going on in detail about each season but i really don’t have the patience or motivation (and I’m sure you guys are getting tired of my typos by now).  So in a nutshell this is perhaps one of the most fulfilling dramatic television programs I have been witness to. I would suggest picking up at least the first season because after that you’ll be hooked. I give Oz a very obvious 9.8/10 (what a surprise another positive review).

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