Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oz: The Complete Series

No, I am not talking about that magical place Dorothy met up with the Scarecrow. And no, I am not talking about Jim Levenstein's buddy from American Pie. No, I am talking about the HBO series that ran from 1997-2003.

I had heard about the series Oz for a long time, but I had no clue what it was about. I knew that it was based in a prison and that it was pretty bad ass. Well, that is definitely true.

The term Oz comes from the name of the Oswald Correctional Facility and the "M" City started up by Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) which was nicknamed Emerald City.

In this part of the prison, prisoners live 2-by-2 in glass cells and are allowed out to mingle in a pretty up-scale (for prisons I believe) room. They do their own laundry and even have a computer room. So, a lot of the prisoners want to stay in this part of the facility.

Unfortunately, this also brings about a lot of what people fear about prisons: rape, death, drugs, etc.

The show is very eclectic in terms of characters, but we follow a handful of inmates for almost the entire run of the series.

Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) was a lawyer on the outside with a drinking problem and on one night kills a young girl when he drives drunk. He is tossed in the prison and is immediately a fish out of water.

Vern Schillinger (J.K. Simmons) runs the Aryan brotherhood in the prison and in the first episode 'rescues' Beecher from Simon Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). We soon find out that there was no rescue, but Schillinger intended to make Beecher his bitch and after burning a swastika on his ass raped him.

I don't want to make this a large posting so I will just run down some of the other major characters

  • Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau) - provides the narration for the episodes while also being an inmate. Was paralyzed during his arrest so is in a wheelchair during the duration of the show.
  • Ryan O'Reily (Dean Winters) - an Irish inmate who likes to make trouble with everyone by joining sides with everyone.
  • Kareem Said (Eamonn Walker) - a Muslim activist who tries to rise above the violence and drug use happening in the prison.
  • Miguel Alvarez (Kirk Acevedo) - a Latino inmate who longs to belong, but also tries to straighten his life out.
  • Cyril O'Reily (Scott William Winters) - Ryan's brother who sustained a head injury and acts like an infant child.
  • Chris Keller (Chris Meloni) - Is a friend of Vern, but also becomes the on and off again boyfriend of Beecher.
Along with McManus for the good guys we are given Warden Leo Glynn (Ernie Hudson), Dr. Gloria Nathan (Lauren Velez), Sister Peter Marie (Rita Moreno) and Father Ray (B.D. Wong).

It took me a few episodes to get into this series. It comes at you awfully quick and in a weird manner with Hill's narrations. But, it was a very enjoyable series that I am glad I took the time to watch. It has a ton of violence, swearing, drug use and male nudity - so if those things bother you I would stay away. If you can handle them though I would highly recommend checking it out.

As I was watching I started to see a lot of actors that I have seen in other shows together. Here are a few that I noticed:

  • Dexter: Lauren Velez, David Zayas and Erik King.
  • Lost: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Lance Reddick, Harold Perrineau and Ken Leung.
  • The Wire: Wood Harris, J.D. Williams, Domenick Lombardozzi, Seth Gilliam, Lance Reddick, John Doman, Method Man, Clarke Peters, Reg E. Cathey, Toni Lewis, Frankie Faison, Michael Hyatt - to name the main ones.
That is all I can remember for now, but a pretty large amount of actors from the show have teamed up again on other shows - most notably on The Wire.


1 comment:

  1. I loved this show back in the day. SOOOOO many great actors - this was my first exposure to J.K. Simmons (that I can recall; I'm sure I'd seen him elsewhere), and it was jarring to see him in Spider-Man, for example. I knew him as a deathly dangerous and scary individual.

    Adewale was killer. Loved Dean Winters...and Eamonn Walker...and Chris Meloni, who I still think could be a DeNiro type actor in the right role.

    Sadly, the show went batshit crazy in the last couple seasons and I don't even think I saw the finale. It just got weird. But those first four seasons or so...great TV.