Before there was Orange is The New Black or Wentworth, there was the ground breaking HBO prison series OZ.Being one of my favorite shows of all time, OZ broke the mold on what should be considered cutting edge television. The title OZ is the nickname for the prison known as the Oswald State Correctional Facility formerly known as Oswald State Penitentiary. The show takes place at a fictional level 4 maximum-security state prison located in upstate New York.
Most of the show’s story arcs takes place in “Emerald city” named after the famous location in the movie The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In fact, the show’s infamous tag line is “It’s no place like home.” “Em City” is a very controlled prison environment that seeks to rehabilitate prisoners rather than just punish them. Every racial and social group is represented in Em City to try and ease tensions, but things don’t always work out that way. Unit manager Tim McManus barely holds things together as inmates are constantly fighting to maintain power and fulfill their own selfish needs…no matter how extreme they are.
OZ goes to great extremes to show the shocking and dreadful experience of being in prison. OZ was one of the first shows to feature male frontal nudity and graphically depict prison rape. Prison rape became a known theme of the show very early and become one of the series most shocking traits of all. It’s exhilarating writing allowed any character to be killed at anytime. Even when a character appears to have made it out of OZ, they never truly do. The violence is brutal, the rape is explicit and the foul language is constant. It’s safe to say that this show is not for the faint of heart.
Because it breeches so many taboo subjects, OZ is still a very under seen (yet highly praised) series and that’s what makes it such an amazing show to binge watch. Each episode averages 55 minutes with most seasons having 8 episodes. Season 4 has 16 episodes. The show ran for a total of 6 seasons.