Oz (TV Series 1997–2003)


Oz (TV Series 1997–2003)

OZ chronicles the attempts of McManus (Terry Kinney) to keep control over the inmates of Em(erald) City as well as the drug trade and the violence. There have been many groups of inmates during the run of the show and not everybody makes it out alive. There's the gangstas (Adebisi, Wangler, Redding, Poet, Keene, Supreme Allah), Muslims (Said, Arif, Hamid Khan), Italians (Pancamo, Nappa, Schiebetta), bikers (Hoyt), Aryans (Schillinger, Robson, Mark Mack), Christians (Cloutier, Cudney), Latinos (Alvarez, Morales, Guerra, Hernandez), gays (Hanlon, Cramer) and a whole pile of others (the O'Riley brothers, Keller, Stanislovsky, etc.). And there's a great "everyman" character called Beecher who gives a good look at a normal man who made one tragic mistake. Besides the regular inmates, there's guest stars such as Method Man, Luke Perry, Master P, Treach, etc. and a bunch of prison staff doctors (Dr. Nathan), a nun/psychologist (Sister Peter Marie), a bunch of guards some honest, some crooked...
IMDb   8.7 /10
Metacritic   73 %
TheMovieDb    8.0 /10
RottenTomatoes  92 %
FilmAffinity   7.9 /10
Creator Tom Fontana
Release Date1997-07-12
GenreCrime, Drama, Thriller
Content RatingTV-MA (TV-MA)
AwardsTop Rated TV #81 | Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 15 wins & 51 nominations.
CompanyRysher Entertainment, The Levinson / Fontana Company
Warden Leo Glynn 56 episodes, 1997-2003
Vern Schillinger 56 episodes, 1997-2003
Tobias Beecher 56 episodes, 1997-2003
Ryan O'Reily 56 episodes, 1997-2003
Bob Rebadow 56 episodes, 1997-2003
Tim McManus 55 episodes, 1997-2003
Sister Peter Marie Reimondo 55 episodes, 1997-2003
Augustus Hill 55 episodes, 1997-2003
Kareem Said 51 episodes, 1997-2003
Poet 49 episodes, 1997-2003
Dr. Gloria Nathan 48 episodes, 1997-2003
Zahir Arif 48 episodes, 1997-2003
Agamemnon Busmalis 47 episodes, 1998-2003
Miguel Alvarez 47 episodes, 1997-2003
Father Ray Mukada 46 episodes, 1997-2003
Chucky Pancamo 46 episodes, 1998-2003
Officer Joseph Mineo / ... 46 episodes, 1997-2003
Cyril O'Reily 45 episodes, 1998-2003
Chico Guerra 40 episodes, 1998-2003
Chris Keller 37 episodes, 1998-2003
Officer Sean Murphy 38 episodes, 1999-2003
James Robson 36 episodes, 1998-2003
Officer Claire Howell 35 episodes, 1999-2003
Carl DiMaggio
Carl DiMaggio
Officer Len Lopresti / ... 33 episodes, 1999-2003
Jaz Hoyt 33 episodes, 1998-2003
Simon Adebisi 32 episodes, 1997-2000
Officer Jason Armstrong 32 episodes, 1997-2003
Timmy Kirk 28 episodes, 1998-2003
Governor James Devlin 27 episodes, 1997-2003
Tony Masters 15 episodes, 1999-2003
Enrique Morales 26 episodes, 2000-2003
Burr Redding 23 episodes, 2001-2003
Officer Diane Whittlesey 21 episodes, 1997-2000
Kenny Wangler / ... 23 episodes, 1997-2000

Oz (TV series)

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. It was the first one-hour dramatic television series to be produced by the premium cable network HBO. 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". 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

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.


Ernie HudsonWarden Leo GlynnMain
Terry KinneyTim McManusMain
Harold PerrineauAugustus HillMain
Eamonn WalkerKareem SaïdMain
Kirk AcevedoMiguel AlvarezSupportingMain
Rita MorenoSister Peter Marie ReimondoSupportingMain
J. K. SimmonsVernon SchillingerSupportingMain
Lee TergesenTobias BeecherSupportingMain
Dean WintersRyan O'ReilySupportingMain
Adewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeSimon AdebisiGuestSupportingMain


B.D. WongFather Ray MukadaSupporting
Edie FalcoOfficer Diane WhittleseySupportingGuest
Sean WhitesellDonald GrovesSupporting
Tony MusanteNino SchibettaSupporting
Leon RobinsonJefferson KeaneSupportingGuest
Jon SedaDino OrtolaniGuestGuest
Lauren VélezDr. Gloria NathanGuestSupporting
George MorfogenBob RebadowGuestSupporting
J. D. WilliamsKenny WanglerGuestSupporting
Željko IvanekGovernor James DevlinGuestSupporting
muMs da SchemerArnold "Poet" JacksonGuestSupporting
Granville AdamsZahir ArifGuestSupporting
Rick FoxJackson VahueGuestSupportingSupporting
Eddie MalavarcaPeter SchibettaGuestSupporting
Tom MardirosianAgamemnon BusmalisGuestSupporting
Christopher MeloniChris KellerGuestSupporting
Scott William WintersCyril O'ReilyGuestSupporting
Austin PendletonWilliam GilesGuestSupporting
Kathryn ErbeShirley BellingerGuestSupportingGuest
Luis GuzmánRaoul "El Cid" HernandezGuestSupporting
Mark MargolisAntonio NappaGuestSupportingGuest
Chuck ZitoChucky PancamoGuestSupporting
R.E. RogersJames RobsonGuestSupporting
Evan SeinfeldJaz HoytGuestSupporting
Otto SanchezCarmen "Chico" GuerraGuestSupporting
Sean DuganTimmy KirkGuestGuestSupporting
Robert ClohessyOfficer Sean MurphySupporting
Kristin RohdeOfficer Claire HowellSupporting
Philip CasnoffNikolai StanislofskySupporting
Seth GilliamOfficer Clayton HughesSupporting
Kevin ConwaySeamus O'ReilyGuestSupporting
Charles BuschNathaniel "Nat" GinzburgGuestSupporting
David ZayasEnrique MoralesSupporting
Reg E. CatheyMartin QuernsSupportingGuest
Erik KingMoses DeyellSupporting
Lance ReddickJohnny Basil / Desmond MobaySupporting
Lord JamarSupreme Allah / Kevin KetchumSupporting
Michael WrightOmar WhiteSupporting
Anthony ChisholmBurr ReddingSupporting
Luke PerryJeremiah CloutierSupporting
Betty BuckleySuzanne FitzgeraldSupporting
Blake RobbinsOfficer Dave BrassGuestSupporting
Patti LuponeStella CoffaSupporting
Joel GreyLemuel IdzikSupporting
Bobby CannavaleAlonzo TorquemadaSupporting


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
18July 12, 1997August 25, 1997
28July 11, 1998August 31, 1998
38July 14, 1999September 1, 1999
4168July 12, 2000August 30, 2000
8January 7, 2001February 25, 2001
58January 6, 2002February 24, 2002
68January 5, 2003February 23, 2003

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.

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). 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.

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.


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. 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.

TitleEpisodesRelease dateRating
Region 1Region 2Region 4BBFCACB
The Complete First Season
March 19, 2002 (DVD & VHS)February 5, 2007February 15, 2007 15  MA 15+
The Complete Second Season
January 7, 2003 (DVD & VHS)August 6, 2007August 16, 2007 18  MA 15+
The Complete Third Season
February 24, 2004October 29, 2007November 8, 2007 18  MA 15+
The Complete Fourth Season
February 1, 2005March 3, 2008March 20, 2008 18  MA 15+
The Complete Fifth Season
June 21, 2005June 30, 2008June 19, 2008 18  MA 15+
The Complete Sixth Season
September 5, 2006September 22, 2008September 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. 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." Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote: "Engaging, often Brutal."

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." 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 ... Be forewarned that Oz is flat-out the most violent and graphically sexual series on TV."


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