Oz Information

Oz is an American television drama series created by Tom Fontana, who also wrote or co-wrote all of the series' 56 episodes. It was the first one-hour dramatic television series to be produced by premium cable network HBO. Oz premiered on July 12, 1997 and ran for six seasons. The series finale aired February 23, 2003. The show was filmed in New York City, New York and later Bayonne, New Jersey.

"Oz" is the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility, formerly Oswald State Penitentiary, a fictional maximum-security prison (level 4) in an unnamed state in the US, though most likely New York State, considering the frequent references by characters to "upstate," a term used by New Yorkers to describe the upper region of the state. When a public official on the show delivers an address, the New York State flag can be seen in the background with the New York motto 'excelsior.' One of the Homeboy inmates also makes a reference to the Polo Grounds, an area of Harlem.

The nickname "Oz" is a reference to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, which is notable for popularizing the phrase: "There's no place like home"; in contrast, the series has used the tagline: "It's no place like home". Curiously, the name Oswald is also that of Correctional Services Commissioner Harold G. Oswald during the Attica prison uprising, in Attica, New York. Tim McManus's hometown is Attica, and he describes the Attica uprising as being one of the reasons he wanted to reform corrections.

In 2008, the show was placed at #73 on Entertainment Weekly "New TV Classics" list.


The majority of Oz's plot arcs are set in "Emerald City," also a concept from The Wizard of Oz. 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 number of members of each racial and social group, with the hope of easing tensions among these various groups.

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 even just to see the next day. The show offers a no-holds-barred account of prison life. All plots, subplots and conflicts are given context and explanation by the show's wheelchair-using narrator, Augustus Hill.

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 (Adebisi, 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), 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. Episodes are narrated and held together by inmate Augustus Hill, who provides the show with context, thematic analysis, and a sense of humor.

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

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


Oz is primarily narrated by inmate Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau), former drug dealer, convicted murderer, and former drug addict. Now paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound, he appears in surreal segments and introductions that usually relate to each episode's overall theme. He also sets up scenes, introduces characters, and adds epilogues. When necessary "? usually when a character is introduced "? Hill appears as an omniscient narrator. Used as a literary device of the writers, he narrates details of characters' crimes, their inmate identification numbers, and their sentences. Hill appears as a recurring character within the show's storylines until his death at the end of the fifth season; he and other deceased characters share narration duties throughout the final, sixth season.

Hill's narrations break the fourth wall, as Hill addresses the camera (and thus the audience) directly, out of the fictional context of the scene. Hill also appears in scenes where he interacts with other characters in the story (in these, he does not address the camera). Only once did Hill appear to directly address another character with one narration; in the Season 3 episode "Unnatural Disasters," the character Simon Adebisi turns on a computer and sees Hill, dressed as a pharaoh and speaking to him. Adebisi was troubled by this event, but wrote it off as a drug-induced hallucination.

Cast and characters

Main article: List of Oz (TV series) characters


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


Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6
B.D. Wong Father Ray Mukada colspan="6"
muMs da Schemer Arnold "Poet" Jackson colspan="6"
?eljko Ivanek Governor James Devlin colspan="6"
Lauren Vélez Gloria Nathan Guest colspan="6"
George Morfogen Bob Rebadow Guest colspan="6"
J. D. Williams Kenny Wangler colspan="4"
Edie Falco Diane Whittlesey colspan="3"
Sean Whitesell Donald Groves colspan="1"
Leon Robinson Jefferson Keane colspan="1" Cameo
Jon Seda Dino Ortolani colspan="1" Cameo
Tony Musante Nino Schibetta colspan="1"
Rick Fox Jackson Vahue Guest colspan="1" colspan="1"
Scott William Winters Cyril O'Reily Guest colspan="4"
Kathryn Erbe Shirley Bellinger colspan="3" Cameo
Austin Pendleton William Giles Guest colspan="3"
Malé B. Alexander Junior Pierce colspan="3"
Luis Guzmán Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez Guest colspan="2"
Mark Margolis Antonio Nappa Guest colspan="1"
LL Cool J Jiggy Walker colspan="1"
Robert Clohessy Sean Murphy colspan="4"
Kevin Conway Seamus O'Reily Guest colspan="3"
Olek Krupa Yuri Kosygin colspan="1"
Betty Buckley Suzanne Fitzgerald colspan="3"
Robert John Burke Pierce Taylor colspan="3"
Anthony Chisholm Burr Redding colspan="3"
Reg E. Cathey Martin Querns colspan="1" colspan="1"
Simon Jones Judge Mason Kessler colspan="1" colspan="1"
John Doman Edward Galson colspan="1"
Lance Reddick Johnny Basil colspan="1"
Dana Ivey Patricia Nathan colspan="1"
David Johansen Eli Zabitz colspan="1"
Erik King Moses Deyell colspan="1"
Domenick Lombardozzi Ralph Galino colspan="1"
Gavin MacLeod Cardinal Frances Abgott colspan="1"
John McMartin Lars Nathan colspan="1"
Brian F. O'Byrne Padraig Connolly colspan="1"
Luke Perry Jeremiah Cloutier colspan="2"
Michael Wright Omar White colspan="3"
David Zayas Enrique Morales colspan="3"
Aasif Mandvi Dr. Tariq Faraj colspan="1"
Joyce Van Patten Sarah Rebadow colspan="1"
Mary Alice Eugenia colspan="1"
Bobby Cannavale Alonzo Torquemada colspan="1"
Joel Grey Lemuel Idzik colspan="1"
Mason Adams Mr. Hoyt colspan="1"
Tom Atkins Mayor Wilson Loewen colspan="1"

Episodes and broadcast history

Main article: List of Oz episodes
Oz took advantage of the freedoms of premium cable to show material that was too excessive for traditional American broadcast television, including elements of coarse language, drug use, violence, male frontal nudity, homosexuality and male rape, as well as ethnic and religious conflicts.

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

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

The program's relatively low number of episodes per season (eight each; sixteen in Season 4), is part of the trend in cable network programming, in which shows often feature shorter seasons than programs on American free-to-air channels, which typically feature sixteen to twenty-two episodes per season.

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

References in other media


  • The name of instrumental experimental rock trio Adebisi Shank is a reference to the Oz character.
  • Rapper Beanie Sigel - "I'm moving out like Adebisi on Oz."
  • Rapper Mannie Fresh references the show in the song lyrics of "Undisputed", featuring Baby, Lil Wayne, Lac, and Mikkey with the line: "I'm the greasey, Adebisi that's runnin' the tier".
  • Rapper Noreaga references the show in the song lyrics of "Nothin", with lines such as: "Only time they seen jail, when they watchin' Oz" and "Adebisi, want a brick you pay double easy".


(Alphabetized by show title)

  • The Arrested Development episode "Visiting Ours" featured a young, traumatized George Michael Bluth watching an episode of Oz, mistaking the show for the film The Wizard of Oz; consequently, George Michael spends the entire series petrified of prisons.
  • The episode "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High" of Fox's Family Guy featured a story in which Lois believed her son Chris had killed a man, whereas it was actually the man's wife who committed the murder. Lois briefly contemplates calling the police but forgets it, stating "I can't call the police. I have to get rid of this body or Chris will go to prison, and we all know what happens in prison showers! I've seen Oz!"' The scene then cuts to a group of naked inmates scrubbing each other's backs in the shower singing a song to the tune to "Merry Old Land of Oz" from The Wizard of Oz.
  • In Gilmore Girls episode "Eight O'Clock at the Oasis", Lorelai's odd new neighbor, Dwight, comments about the unpleasantness of his former home. Lorelai later jokes to Rory that Dwight's former home was "Oz, and not as in the Wizard of."
  • MADtv did two Oz parodies: one with Bill Cosby (Aries Spears) in jail in a skit called Coz, and another featuring Martha Stewart (Mo Collins) sent to the Oswald Correctional Facility, using her recipes and home decorating ideas to kill other prisoners.
  • In one episode of the American remake of Queer as Folk, Brian's nephew says he hopes Brian is sent to jail and anally raped by a black man. Justin comments that his parents must have HBO.
  • In an episode of the Adult Swim series Robot Chicken, a segment parodies Oz, starring the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, who gets shanked with a shiv in the cafeteria. A later segment goes into more detail, with the Tin Man committing suicide, and the Scarecrow depicted as being raped. After the Cowardly Lion is beheaded, the Scarecrow kills the inmate responsible and is sentenced to death. As the Scarecrow is electrocuted, an onlooking Dorothy weeps and rubs her breasts on the window, fulfilling the Scarecrow's earlier request.
  • An episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, featured a skit parodying both Oz and the final episode of Seinfeld, in which Seinfeld's character is sent to prison. It was filmed on the actual Oz sets and featured many main actors from the series.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Pokey Mom", Chief Wiggum asks a criminal if prison is like what they show in Oz.
  • Another episode of The Simpsons, "The Seven-Beer Snitch", features Homer Simpson becoming a prison snitch and receiving a series of gifts and privileges, one of which is an "adorable little hat" identical to the one worn by Simon Adebisi in Oz.
  • In the HBO series Six Feet Under, characters David Fisher and Keith Charles are seen watching Oz and talking about the show, on occasion.
  • The South Park episode "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000", in which Eric Cartman gets sent to prison, features music from Oz during establishing shots of the prison. Trey Parker and Matt Stone state on that episode's DVD commentary that the staff of Oz were fans of South Park.
  • In the Season 3 episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "Jolinar's Memories", which takes place in a hellish prison carved into a moon, Colonel Jack O'Neill says "Well... it's certainly not Emerald City." It can be debated that he references The Wizard of Oz (as he referenced it often during the course of the series), but the "medieval" prison setting, violently contrasting with the "clean and modern" look of this Oswald Penitentiary unit, tilts the balance in favor of the prison show.
  • The Venture Bros. episode "Powerless in the Face of Death" features music similar to the Oz opening theme during a prison scene.
  • On the third season premiere of Will & Grace, Karen tells Rosario that she should be thankful to her for "springing her out of Oz," after Rosario was imprisoned for smuggling Karen's drugs, which was set up by Karen herself.
  • In a Season 3 episode of another HBO series The Wire, Omar Little and Dante are seen watching an intimate scene between Tobias Beecher and Chris Keller, from a Season 6 episode of Oz.


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.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 8 March 19, 2002
The Complete Second Season 8 January 7, 2003
The Complete Third Season 8 February 24, 2004
The Complete Fourth Season 16 February 1, 2005
The Complete Fifth Season 8 June 21, 2005
The Complete Sixth Season 8 September 5, 2006


Main article: Oz (soundtrack)
A soundtrack containing East Coast, West Coast and Southern hip hop was released on January 9, 2001 by Avatar Records. It peaked at #42 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Oz_%28TV_series%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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