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Oz (TV series)

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Title: Oz (TV series)  
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Oz (TV series)

Created by Tom Fontana
Written by Tom Fontana
Bradford Winters
Sunil Nayar
Sean Jablonski
Sean Whitesell
Starring Kirk Acevedo
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Ernie Hudson
Terry Kinney
Christopher Meloni
George Morfogen
Rita Moreno
Harold Perrineau
J. K. Simmons
Lee Tergesen
Eamonn Walker
Dean Winters
Theme music composer Steve Rosen
Dave Darlington
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 56 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Tom Fontana
Barry Levinson
Jim Finnerty
Producer(s) Debbie Sarjeant
Mark A. Baker
Irene Burns
Bridget Potter
Jorge Zamacona
Greer Yeaton
Editor(s) Deborah Moran
Running time 55 minutes
Production company(s) The Levinson/Fontana Company
Rysher Entertainment
HBO Original Programming
Original channel HBO
Original release July 12, 1997 (1997-07-12) – February 23, 2003 (2003-02-23)

Oz is an American television drama series created by Tom Fontana, who also wrote or co-wrote all of the series' 56 episodes.[1][2] It was the first one-hour dramatic television series to be produced by the premium cable network HBO.[3] Oz premiered on July 12, 1997 and ran for six seasons; the series finale aired February 23, 2003.


  • Overview 1
  • Plot 2
  • Cast and characters 3
    • Main 3.1
    • Recurring 3.2
  • Episodes 4
  • International broadcast history 5
  • Syndication 6
  • Rights 7
  • DVD releases 8
  • Critical reception 9
  • Soundtrack 10
  • References 11
  • Additional sources 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14


"Oz" is the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility, formerly Oswald State Penitentiary, a fictional Attica Prison riot. The character Tim McManus refers to Attica as his hometown and the riot as his original impetus for his wanting to set up Emerald City.

The nickname "Oz" is also a reference to the classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939), which popularized the phrase "There's no place like home." In contrast, the series uses the tagline: "It's no place like home". Moreover, most of the series' story arcs are set in "Emerald City", a setting from the fictional Land of Oz in L. Frank Baum's Oz books, first described in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).

In 2008, the show was placed at #73 on Entertainment Weekly‍‍ '​‍s "New TV Classics" list.[4]


The majority of Oz‍ '​s story arcs are set in "Emerald City", named for a setting from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). In this experimental unit of the prison, unit manager Tim McManus emphasizes rehabilitation and learning responsibility during incarceration, rather than carrying out purely punitive measures. Emerald City is an extremely controlled environment, with a carefully managed balance of members from each racial and social group, intended to ease tensions among these various factions.

Under McManus and Warden Leo Glynn, all inmates in "Em City" struggle to fulfill their own needs. Some fight for power – either over the drug trade or over other inmate factions and individuals. Others, corrections officers and inmates alike, simply want to survive, some long enough to make parole and others just to see the next day. The show offers a no holds barred account of prison life. The show's wheelchair-bound narrator, inmate Augustus Hill, explains all of the show's plots, subplots, and conflicts, and provides context, thematic analysis, and a sense of humor.

Oz chronicles McManus' attempts to keep control over the inmates of Em City. There are many groups of inmates throughout the show, and not everyone within each group survives the show's events. There are the African American Homeboys (Wangler, Redding, Poet, Keane, Supreme Allah) and Muslims (Said, Arif, Hamid Khan), the Wiseguys (Pancamo, Nappa, Schibetta, Zanghi, Urbano), the Aryan Brotherhood (Schillinger, Robson, Mark Mack), the Latinos of El Norte (Alvarez, Morales, Guerra, Hernandez), the Irish (the O'Reily brothers), the gays (Hanlon, Cramer), the bikers (Hoyt, Sands), the Christians (Cloutier, Coushaine, Cudney) and many other individuals not completely affiliated with one particular group (Rebadow, Busmalis, Keller, Stanislofsky). In contrast to the dangerous criminals, character Tobias Beecher gives a look at a usually law-abiding man who made one fatal drunk-driving mistake.

The ensemble cast includes Christopher Meloni, Ernie Hudson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Harold Perrineau Jr., Eamonn Walker, Rita Moreno, Terry Kinney, Betty Buckley, Kathryn Erbe, Lee Tergesen, B. D. Wong, J.D. Williams, J. K. Simmons, Dean Winters, Scott William Winters, Kirk Acevedo, Erik King, Evan Seinfeld, David Zayas, Lauren Vélez, Otto Sanchez, Robert Clohessy, and Edie Falco.

Eric Roberts, Joyce Van Patten, Lord Jamar, Method Man, Luke Perry, Master P, Treach, LL Cool J, Rick Fox, Tom Ligon, Dana Ivey, Elaine Stritch, and Peter Criss have made appearances on the show.

Cast and characters

From left to right: Ryan O'Reily, Vernon Schillinger, Miguel Alvarez, Tobias Beecher, Kareem Saïd, In the front sits Augustus Hill (this photo was also used as the cover for Hill's book)


Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6
Ernie Hudson Warden Leo Glynn Starring
Terry Kinney Tim McManus Starring
Harold Perrineau Jr. Augustus Hill Starring
Eamonn Walker Kareem Saïd Starring
Kirk Acevedo Miguel Alvarez Also Starring Starring
Rita Moreno Sister Peter Marie Reimondo Also Starring Starring
J. K. Simmons Vernon Schillinger Also Starring Starring
Lee Tergesen Tobias Beecher Also Starring Starring
Dean Winters Ryan O'Reily Also Starring Starring
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje Simon Adebisi Guest Also Starring Starring


Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6
Edie Falco Officer Diane Whittlesey Also Starring Guest
Sean Whitesell Donald Groves Also Starring
Tony Musante Nino Schibetta Also Starring
B.D. Wong Father Ray Mukada Also Starring
Leon Robinson Jefferson Keane Also Starring Guest
Jon Seda Dino Ortolani Guest Guest
George Morfogen Bob Rebadow Guest Also Starring
J. D. Williams Kenny Wangler Guest Also Starring
Željko Ivanek Governor James Devlin Guest Also Starring
Lauren Vélez Dr. Gloria Nathan Guest Also Starring
Rick Fox Jackson Vahue Guest Also Starring Also Starring
muMs da Schemer Arnold "Poet" Jackson Guest Also Starring
Granville Adams Zahir Arif Guest Also Starring
Eddie Malavarca Peter Schibetta Guest Guest
Tom Mardirosian Agamemnon Busmalis Guest Also Starring
Kathryn Erbe Shirley Bellinger Guest Also Starring Guest
Christopher Meloni Chris Keller Guest Also Starring
Scott William Winters Cyril O'Reily Guest Also Starring
Sean Dugan Timmy Kirk Guest Guest Also Starring
Austin Pendleton William Giles Guest Also Starring
Luis Guzmán Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez Guest Also Starring
Mark Margolis Antonio Nappa Guest Also Starring Guest
Chuck Zito Chucky Pancamo Guest Also Starring
Evan Seinfeld Jaz Hoyt Guest Also Starring
R.E. Rogers James Robson Guest Also Starring
Otto Sanchez Carmen "Chico" Guerra Guest Also Starring
Philip Casnoff Nikolai Stanislofsky Also Starring
Robert Clohessy Officer Sean Murphy Also Starring
Seth Gilliam Officer Clayton Hughes Also Starring
Kristin Rohde Officer Claire Howell Also Starring
Kevin Conway Seamus O'Reily Guest Also Starring
Charles Busch Nathaniel 'Nat' Ginzburg Guest Also Starring
David Zayas Enrique Morales Also Starring
Reg E. Cathey Martin Querns Also Starring Guest
Erik King Moses Deyell Also Starring
Lance Reddick Johnny Basil / Desmond Mobay Also Starring
Lord Jamar 'Supreme Allah' / Kevin Ketchum Also Starring
Michael Wright Omar White Also Starring
Anthony Chisholm Burr Redding Also Starring
Luke Perry Jeremiah Cloutier Also Starring
Betty Buckley Suzanne Fitzgerald Also Starring
Blake Robbins Officer Dave Brass Guest Also Starring
Patti Lupone Stella Coffa Also Starring
Joel Grey Lemuel Idzik Also Starring
Bobby Cannavale Alonzo Torquemada Also Starring


Oz took advantage of the freedoms of premium cable to show elements of coarse language, drug use, violence, frontal nudity, homosexuality, and male rape, as well as ethnic and religious conflicts that would have been unacceptable to traditional advertiser-supported American broadcast television.[3]

International broadcast history

In Australia, Oz was screened uncensored on the free-to-air channel, SBS. This was also the case in Brazil, where it was aired by the SBT Network Corporation, late at night; in Ireland, where the series aired on free-to-air channel TG4 at 11 p.m.; in Israel, where Oz was displayed on the free-to-air commercial Channel 2; in Italy, where it was aired on the free-to-air Italia 1; and in the United Kingdom, where Channel 4 aired the show late at night.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was aired on the federal TV station called FTV. In Canada, Oz aired on the Showcase Channel at Friday 10 p.m. EST. In Croatia, Estonia, and Slovenia, the show was aired late at night on public, non-commercial, state-owned channels HRT, ETV, and RTV SLO, respectively. In Denmark, it appeared late at night on the non-commercial public service channel DR1. In Finland, it broadcast on the free-to-air channel Nelonen (TV4). In France, the show aired on commercial cable channel 'Serie Club,' also late at night. In Malaysia, full episodes of Oz aired late at night on ntv7, while the censored version aired during the day. In the Netherlands, Oz aired on the commercial channel RTL 5. In New Zealand Oz aired on The Box at 9.30pm on Wednesdays in the early 2000s (decade). In Norway and Sweden, it aired on the commercial channels ZTV and TV3 late at night. In Panama, Oz aired on RPC-TV Channel 4 in a late-night hour. In Portugal, Oz aired late at night on SIC Radical, one of the SIC channels in the cable network. In Serbia, Oz aired on RTV BK Telecom. In Spain, the show aired on premium channel Canal+. In Turkey, Oz was aired on Cine5; DiziMax also aired the re-runs.


On April 21, 2009, Variety announced that starting May 31, DirecTV will broadcast all 56 episodes in their original form without commercials and in up-scaled "high definition" on The 101 Network available to all subscribers. The episodes will also be available through DirecTV's On Demand service.[5]


The series was co-produced by HBO and Rysher Entertainment, and the underlying U.S. rights lie with HBO, which has released the entire series on DVD in North America. The international rights were owned originally by Rysher, then Paramount Pictures/Domestic Television after that company acquired Rysher. CBS Studios International currently owns the international TV rights, and Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS DVD owns the international DVD rights.

DVD releases

HBO Home Video has released all six seasons of Oz on DVD in Region 1 and Region 2. The Region 1 releases contain numerous special features including commentaries, deleted scenes and featurettes. The Region 2 releases do not contain any special features.

Title Episodes Release date Rating
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4 BBFC ACB
The Complete First Season
March 19, 2002 (DVD & VHS) February 5, 2007 February 15, 2007  15   MA 15+
The Complete Second Season
January 7, 2003 (DVD & VHS) August 6, 2007 August 16, 2007  18   MA 15+
The Complete Third Season
February 24, 2004 October 29, 2007 November 8, 2007  18   MA 15+
The Complete Fourth Season
February 1, 2005 March 3, 2008 March 20, 2008  18   MA 15+
The Complete Fifth Season
June 21, 2005 June 30, 2008 June 19, 2008  18   MA 15+
The Complete Sixth Season
September 5, 2006 September 22, 2008 September 18, 2008  18   MA 15+
The Complete Series
September 5, 2006 (Special Edition) September 7, 2009 (The Emerald City Collection) N/A  18  N/A

Critical reception

Critical reception of Oz is mostly positive. The first season of Oz has been ranked a 70 based on the rating aggregator website Metacritic, indicating generally favorable reviews by critics.[6] James Caryn from The New York Times stated: "Set almost entirely in the prison, a high-tech horror with glass-walled cells, Oz can also be unpleasant to watch, gruesome and claustrophobic. Yet as the series moves beyond its introductory shock value, it becomes more serious, disturbing and gripping. Even for likely fans the series is not perfect and that its depiction of guilty men in torturous circumstances, is never subtle, but complicated and strong."[7] Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote: "Engaging, often Brutal."[8]

Other reviews were more critical of the series. Frederic Bidle of the Boston Globe said: "A pretentious exercise in cheap thrills, by great talents allowed to run amok."[9] Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times reported: "Its unique and arresting style don't earn endorsements here... there's no light at the end of the tunnel, or a tunnel- that offer central characters to root or pull for... Be forewarned that Oz is flat-out the most violent and graphically sexual series on TV."[10]


Avatar Records released a soundtrack containing East Coast, West Coast, and Southern hip hop on January 9, 2001. It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Soundtrack Charts, #42 on the Billboard 200, and #8 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[11] The soundtrack featured the song "Behind the Walls" recorded by Kurupt & Nate Dogg, which hit #1 at many radio stations in the US according to BDS.


  1. ^ Adam Dunn (21 February 2003). "'"The end of 'Oz. CNN. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  2. ^ "Oz Production Notes". Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  3. ^ a b Bruce Fretts (11 July 1997). "Nasty As He Wanna Be". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  4. ^ "The New Classics: TV".  
  5. ^ MICHAEL SCHNEIDER (20 April 2009). Oz,' 'Deadwood' join DirecTV"'". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  6. ^ "Oz Season 1". Metacritic. 
  7. ^ Caryn, James. "High Tech Prison and the Face of Horrors". New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Oz Season 1". Metacritic. 
  9. ^ Biddle, Frederick. "Metacritic". Boston Globe. 
  10. ^ Rosenberg, Howard. "Metacritic". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ Steve Rosen
    Dave Darlington. "Oz – Original Soundtrack (2001)". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-10-21.

Additional sources

  • Season 1, Episode 2, DVD Commentary on "Oz: The Complete First Season."
  • Season 2, Episode 5, "Oz: The Complete Second Season."

Further reading

  • HarperEntertainment (2003). Oz: behind these walls: the journal of Augustus Hill. New York: HarperEntertainment.  
  • Stemple, Lara (2007). "HBO's OZ and the Fight against Prisoner Rape: Chronicles from the Front Line". In Merri Lisa Johnson. Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box.  

External links

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