Given all the great TV shows that are broadcast on HBO, AMC and USA, people today are blessed with an abundance of great entertainment from The Walking Dead to Game of Thrones to Suits and more. However, old still remains gold and one show that is not widely discussed today in the same light as The Sopranos or The Wire is Oz.
Tom Fontana’s Oz is a show focused on a high-security prison housing the most dangerous inmates as they deal with the drug war, prison violence, sex, and just trying to stay alive. Not to say it was as good as the abovementioned shows, but it still remains one of the most revolutionary shows on HBO and is very much worth your time. With six seasons of pure unpredictability, here are 10 reasons you should start binge watching Oz.
10. It Was HBO’s First One-Hour Original Show
Yes. Oz was HBO’s first original one-hour drama series and the one that really started to garner HBO critical acclaim. Ranked 70 on the rating aggregator website Metacritic, the success of Oz really got HBO on the map. Not only that, but Oz really got the ball rolling as a number of brilliant shows—which were also one-hour long—followed on the network.
9. Grittiness Virtually Inspired The Sopranos
As mentioned before, Oz got the ball rolling for many shows, but it also inspired arguably the greatest show of all time—The Sopranos. Critics were harsh on The Sopranos for its graphic content and gruesome scenes, and if you’ve watched it you probably know what we’re talking about, like Ralphie beating a pregnant girl to death or Tony curb stomping a man for hitting on his daughter. But this is nothing in comparison to what Oz showcased. With rapes, graphic deaths, full frontal nudity, and more, Oz really did have its own shock factor.
8. A Main Character You Can Invest In
There are so many characters in Oz who can qualify as a main character. It’s similar to Game of Thrones in that sense. However, most would agree that Tobias Beecher is the main character, an educated lawyer who while drunk driving, murdered a girl riding her bike. This mistake costs him big, as he spends a couple of years in Oz where he deals with Neo-Nazis, drug fiends and Italian mobsters.
Obviously not the best place for an educated man like Beecher, he becomes a the target of sexual harassment and takes orders from the leader of the Aryans. Beecher didn’t put up with it for long, as he went crazy taking drugs and eventually gave in to the system while becoming a respected member of the Oz “community.” His character transformation is akin to Walter White from Breaking Bad—and we all loved that.
7. Unpredictability and Pacing
One of the best things about Oz is that anything can happen. Main characters can die, the unexpected will happen, and the majority of the episodes will leave viewers tingling in shock. While the story isn’t as strong as other shows, the pacing and excitement Oz brings is second to none. There’s almost always something happening in each episode and aside from a few characters (that you can count with your right hand), anyone can die when you least expect it.
Other than that, each episode has a number of different stories to tell — you might not like them all, but you’re guaranteed to like some of them.
6. Many Characters to Root For
Like many HBO shows today, Oz has many characters to root for, which is natural given that there are so many groups in the prison—the Aryans, Muslims, Irish, Italians, homeboys, gays, bikers, Latinos, and the “others” (who don’t fit any particular group). The most popular ones who you’re bound to like are Beecher, Ryan O’Reilly, Miguel Alvarez, and Chris Keller. You can even root for the prison staff like Tim McManus — the creator of Oz who wanted to make lives better for prisoners while dealing with the hardships of running the facility. We personally like a show where you can root for more than one person!
5. Violence and Gore
While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, there is simply a LOT of violence and gore in Oz. From deaths via a staple gun, getting electrocuted by the fence (or when you’re in a bathtub), gouging out a Correctional Officer’s eyes, shanking a guy’s neck while he’s sleeping, or even flat out removing a guy’s arm, if you think you can handle this show, you might be in for a surprise.
Abandoning realism has been a criticism of Oz, however (but if it was too realistic, there’d be no real story), as there are many plot holes and contradictions, but it’s made up for with gruesome ends to feuds and rivalries which keep the story fresh. It’s much more satisfying if you suspend your belief.
Now, the prison in the show is filled with dangerous men from all backgrounds who all engage in violent, cruel acts. But despite this, the humor in Oz is very underrated. Just scour YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of funny Oz moment compilations, because you can’t have a show with this many deaths without some comic relief. The show definitely made us laugh more than we cringed, even given the number of deaths involved.
3. The Wire Cast Is Pretty Much In Oz
You probably love The Wire (and if you haven’t seen it, watch it after Oz) and that’s one more reason to watch — the cast of The Wire is pretty much all in Oz. From Bodie, Cedric Daniels, Avon Barksdale, Rawls, Cheese, and more, they all have some role in Oz. It’s even interesting to make parallels between the two shows (if you have an imagination), as it’s like the characters in The Wire got locked up in Oz. Bodie, for example, is Kenny Wangler in Oz, and he went to jail as a teenager for killing someone. Cedric Daniels was a lieutenant in The Wire and in Oz; he was sent as an undercover narcotics agent in Oz, almost as if his failed cases with the Baltimore Homicide department got him demoted to do that job. The possibilities are endless with the two shows.
2. Underrated Cast
There are so many cast members in Oz who star as regulars on TV shows to this day, while others never surpassed the heights of fame they achieved with this HBO series. Despite this, when you consider what many of them have achieved since Oz ended, the show had a star-studded cast with the likes of Emmy winner Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie), EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) award winner Rita Moreno, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Pompeii, The Mummy Returns, Lost, Game of Thrones), JK Simmons (Spiderman, Whiplash and Law & Order), Kirk Acevedo (The Walking Dead, Fringe), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), Dean Winters (30 Rock, Rescue Me), and Harold Perrineau (Lost, Zero Dark Thirty).
1. It’s Simply Gripping
In addition to all of the aforementioned points, Oz simply grips you and gets you invested. With a wide array of stories and relationships in the show, it’s really hard not to. When someone bad dies, you celebrate; when someone good dies, you break down; when someone gets a big break, you’re happy; and when someone deceives another, you’re angry — all in all, Oz is a great show and if it had aired even a few years later, more people would still be talking about it today. So check out HBO Now or HBO Go and start watching!