The HBO series "OZ" was one of the best shows to ever grace the mid-1990's. Speaking of some of the great shows that came from that period like "The X-Files","Homicide:Life On The Street","NYPD Blue","The Practice","Law and Order",and so forth. For the six seasons that it ran on Home Box Office(HBO),producing a total of 147 episodes that begin with the opening episode of the series,the first episode on July 12,1997 to the emotional and astounding finale of the series on February 23,2003. This was a brilliant series in astounding detail that was superbly acted and exceptionally well written with some of the most grippest episodes ever conceived and it shows coming from the creative minds of Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana,the forces behind this show and there over successful venture "Homicide:Life On The Street",have fashioned something that was out of the ordinary and for one something we haven't seen the likes of in a long time. And to show it "OZ" was just that...a gripping and intensely violent drama that takes place within the walls the nation's penal system and the inmates and prison officals that control it. "OZ" was so successful in fact that it was nominated for two Emmys(twice)for Best Dramatic Series on Cable Television not to mention winning the ALMA,Cable ACE,Edgar Allen Poe Awards for Best Writing,The Writers Guild Of America for some of the best writing ever presented on television. For one "OZ" was something special that got people's attention: It was a rare series that made up sit up and basically take notice,and actually care for the characters in such an ensemble cast as this,no matter how heinous their crimes,or how street-and-battle hardened their exteriors were.
Another reason why "OZ" was so brilliant was that it took the level of television drama to another level which was something that you would never see on any of the major television networks,and it was only on HBO that you saw it the way it was meant to be seen,and let me tell you this: "OZ" was graphically violent and bloody,vicious,and cruel not to mention full of nudity and explicit graphic language. In other words,"OZ" tells it like it is and believe me it is not pretty. It's realistic,frank and very controversial. It was also wildly creative,beautifully filmed,brilliantly acted with the grand and beautifully innovation of great storytelling. This was a show that was clever and highly intelligent(although many can't get past some of the brutuality and constant swearing not to mention the blood and gore)and since this was basically an adult show,made for adults. Some of the plots within the show are one of constant tension and drama as plan follows plan follows murder follows betrayal and so forth with some of the story lines exceptionally good and sometimes brutal in the aftermath. As for the characters themselves,especially with some of the inmates,and some of the guards too,they change with time-they develop within the events,they get killed and regardless of the status within the series' run they get killed off-one by one! New inmates are added and the same formula follows the same suit. Regardless,to get through a entire day in "OZ" is through survival-where only the strong survive.
"OZ" is set within the confine walls of Oswald State Penitentiary and within the wings there is a section called Emerald City which is basically a city within a prison. With this wing prisoners are given more responsibility and better conditions. Sleeping two to a pod,with clean facilities,etc. However,the prisoners are no different as crime and violence runs the prison. No one is above corruption and murder can come from the smallest events. Drugs,rape,and torture are the weapons and no one is above betrayal and deceit as powerful partnerships are formed and broken. Even the guards are in on the act right under the warden's nose. The head warden of Oswald State Penitentiary is Leo Glenn(Ernie Hudson),who runs his prison like a ironhand and is strictly by the book. His counterpart,the manager of prison operations,Tim McManus (Terry Kinney),oversee the majority of prisoners since he is dealing with some of the most dangerous inmates ever. The rest of the staff consisted of Sister Marie(Rita Moreno),Father Mukada(D.B. Wong)and Nurse Reyes(Lauren Velez).
The cast consists of the some of the best acting around...check it out the performances too including the youngest inmate ever inprisoned in OZ,teenager Kenny Wangler(J.D.Williams),not to mention the first woman to be executed on death row in OZ,Shirley Bellinger(Kathryn Erbe,in a far cry from her role on Law and Order:SVU),and Inmate Chris Keller(Christopher Meloni in a role that was far away from what he does on Law and Order:SVU). Key performances what made this series stand out are here especially from first-rate actors Lee Tergensen(Tobias Beecher),J.K. Simmons(Aryan Leader Vern Schillinger),Eamonn Walker(Kareem Said),Tony Musante(Mob Leader Nino Schibetta),and not to mention the narrator Harold Perrineau(the narrator of OZ,Augustus Hill),real-life brothers Scott and Dean Winters(as Cyril and Ryan O'Reily),and Kirk Acevado(Miguel Alvarez,leader of a tough Latino street gang),not to mention Zeljko Ivanek(Governor Devlin),and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje(as the notorious Simon Adebisi). And the guest stars that appeared on this show during its six-year run,which would have anybody from hip-hop artists(Method Man of Wu Tang Clan, LL Cool J,and Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian not to mention rappers like MC Lyte and Sheryl Denton- of the 80's female rap group Salt and Pepa),NBA Superstars(Rick Fox),Nationally known poetry artists(muMs da Schemer)and Broadway stars(Joel Grey,and Patti LaPone)and other television appearances(Edward Herrmann,and Edie Falco,who was a regular during the show's first season as one of the guards). A show that was great in all aspects.