Oz (TV series)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Oz titlecard.png
Created byTom Fontana
Written by
Theme music composer
  • Rosen
  • Dave Darlington
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes56 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Debbie Sarjeant
  • Mark A. Baker
  • Irene Burns
  • Bridget Potter
  • Jorge Zamacona
  • Greer Yeaton
EditorDeborah Moran
Running time52–62 minutes
99 minutes (series finale)
Production companies
Original networkHBO
Original releaseJuly 12, 1997 (1997-07-12) –
February 23, 2003 (2003-02-23)
External links

Oz is an American drama television series set at a fictional men's prison 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.


"Oz" is the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility, formerly Oswald State Penitentiary, a fictional level 4 maximum-security state prison.

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, a poster for the series uses the tagline: "It's no place like home".[4] Moreover, most of the series' story arcs are set in "Emerald City", a wing named after a setting from the fictional Land of Oz in L. Frank Baum's Oz books, first described in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).


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. However, almost all of these factions are constantly at war with one another which often results in many prisoners being beaten, raped, or killed.

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's narrator, inmate Augustus Hill, explains the show, 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, Adebisi) and Muslims (Said, Arif, Khan), the Wiseguys (Pancamo, Nappa, Schibetta, Zanghi, Urbano), the Aryan Brotherhood (Schillinger, Robson, Mack), the Latinos of El Norte (Alvarez, Morales, Guerra, Hernandez), the Irish (The O'Reilly brothers, Kirk, Keenan), the Gays (Hanlon, Cramer, Ginzburg), the Bikers (Hoyt, Sands, Burns), 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, central character Tobias Beecher gives a look at a usually law-abiding man who made one fatal drunk-driving mistake.

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)

Main actors are credited as "starring" in the opening title sequence, while supporting actors are listed under "also starring". Guest actors are listed in the show's end credits.


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


Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6
B.D. Wong Father Ray Mukada Supporting
Edie Falco Officer Diane Whittlesey Supporting Guest
Sean Whitesell Donald Groves Supporting
Tony Musante Nino Schibetta Supporting
Leon Robinson Jefferson Keane Supporting Guest
Jon Seda Dino Ortolani Guest Guest
Lauren Vélez Dr. Gloria Nathan Guest Supporting
George Morfogen Bob Rebadow Guest Supporting
J. D. Williams Kenny Wangler Guest Supporting
Željko Ivanek Governor James Devlin Guest Supporting
muMs da Schemer Arnold "Poet" Jackson Guest Supporting
Granville Adams Zahir Arif Guest Supporting
Rick Fox

Merit BX Guest Extra

Jackson Vahue Guest Supporting Supporting
Eddie Malavarca Peter Schibetta Guest Supporting
Tom Mardirosian Agamemnon Busmalis Guest Supporting
Christopher Meloni Chris Keller Guest Supporting
Scott William Winters Cyril O'Reily Guest Supporting
Austin Pendleton William Giles Guest Supporting
Kathryn Erbe Shirley Bellinger Guest Supporting Guest
Luis Guzmán Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez Guest Supporting
Mark Margolis Antonio Nappa Guest Supporting Guest
Chuck Zito Chucky Pancamo Guest Supporting
R.E. Rogers James Robson Guest Supporting
Evan Seinfeld Jaz Hoyt Guest Supporting
Otto Sanchez Carmen "Chico" Guerra Guest Supporting
Sean Dugan Timmy Kirk Guest Guest Supporting
Robert Clohessy Officer Sean Murphy Supporting
Kristin Rohde Officer Claire Howell Supporting
Philip Casnoff Nikolai Stanislofsky Supporting
Seth Gilliam Officer Clayton Hughes Supporting
Kevin Conway Seamus O'Reily Guest Supporting
Charles Busch Nathaniel "Nat" Ginzburg Guest Supporting
David Zayas Enrique Morales Supporting
Reg E. Cathey Martin Querns Supporting Guest
Erik King Moses Deyell Supporting
Lance Reddick Johnny Basil / Desmond Mobay Supporting
Lord Jamar Supreme Allah / Kevin Ketchum Supporting
Michael Wright Omar White Supporting
Anthony Chisholm Burr Redding Supporting
Luke Perry Jeremiah Cloutier Supporting
Betty Buckley Suzanne Fitzgerald Supporting
Blake Robbins Officer Dave Brass Guest Supporting
Patti Lupone Stella Coffa Supporting
Joel Grey Lemuel Idzik Supporting
Bobby Cannavale Alonzo Torquemada Supporting


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
18July 12, 1997 (1997-07-12)August 25, 1997 (1997-08-25)
28July 11, 1998 (1998-07-11)August 31, 1998 (1998-08-31)
38July 14, 1999 (1999-07-14)September 1, 1999 (1999-09-01)
4168July 12, 2000 (2000-07-12)August 30, 2000 (2000-08-30)
8January 7, 2001 (2001-01-07)February 25, 2001 (2001-02-25)
58January 6, 2002 (2002-01-06)February 24, 2002 (2002-02-24)
68January 5, 2003 (2003-01-05)February 23, 2003 (2003-02-23)

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]

On an episode of Saturday Night Live that Jerry Seinfeld hosted on October 2, 1999, a sketch was produced that showed what life was like for his character of the same name behind bars after being transferred to the Oswald State Correctional Facility sometime after the events of Seinfeld (1989–1998).[5] The roughly four-minute sketch shows the opening credits for the HBO series with clips of Jerry mixed in doing various activities around the prison. The sketch continues and mixes in different story lines from both Oz and Seinfeld and has Jerry interacting with various characters from the show in his typical quick-witted, sarcastic way.[6]

International broadcast history

In Australia, Oz was screened uncensored on Channel "OH" on Optus TV, then 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 in the middle of the 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. In Japan, it aired on SuperChannel (now, Super! Drama TV) from 29 December 2001 to 22 July 2005.


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.[7]


The series was co-produced by HBO and Rysher Entertainment (who owns the copyright), and the underlying U.S. rights lie with HBO Entertainment and Warner Bros. Entertainment, 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.

Home media

The first two seasons of Oz were released on VHS in box sets.[8][9] 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 was 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.[10] Caryn James 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, it is so gruesome and claustrophobic. Yet... as the series moves beyond its introductory shock value, it becomes more serious, disturbing and gripping.... The point of Oz, with its depiction of guilty men in torturous circumstances, is never subtle, but it is complicated and strong."[11] Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote: "Engaging, often Brutal."[12]

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."[13] 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 [sic] ... Be forewarned that Oz is flat-out the most violent and graphically sexual series on TV."[14]


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.[15] The soundtrack featured the song "Behind the Walls" recorded by Kurupt & Nate Dogg.


  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. ^ Beeler, Karin (Nov 7, 2005). Tattoos, Desire and Violence: Marks of Resistance in Literature, Film. p. 120. ISBN 978-0786423897.
  5. ^ Saturday Night Live season 25
  6. ^ "SNL Transcripts: Jerry Seinfeld: 10/02/99: Oz". October 8, 2018.
  7. ^ MICHAEL SCHNEIDER (20 April 2009). "'Oz,' 'Deadwood' join DirecTV". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  8. ^ "HBO Store - Other HBO Shows: OZ: The Complete First Season VHS". February 7, 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-02-07.
  9. ^ "HBO Store - Other HBO Shows: OZ: The Complete Second Season VHS". February 5, 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-02-05.
  10. ^ "Oz Season 1". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2020-11-15. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  11. ^ Caryn, James. "High Tech Prison and the Face of Horrors". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2020-11-15. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  12. ^ "Oz Season 1". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2020-11-15. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  13. ^ Biddle, Frederick. "Metacritic". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2020-11-15. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  14. ^ Rosenberg, Howard. "Metacritic". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2020-11-15. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  15. ^ Steve Rosen
    Dave Darlington. "Oz – Original Soundtrack (2001)". Billboard. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2009-10-21.


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

Further reading

External links

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