PEOPLE: Created by Tom Fontana (St. Elsewhere).
The cast is incredibly varied, with prisoners entering, dying, and moving all the time. So it’s a revolving door cast with only 9 characters in at least 50 out of the 56 episodes, 17 characters in at least 40 out of 56 episodes, 26 characters in at least 30 out of 56 episodes, 34 characters in at least 20 out of 56 episodes.
Characters: Beecher is Lee Tergesen (jerky older brother Chet Donnelly from the Weird Science TV series, Terry from Wayne’s World 1-2). Vern Schillinger is J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies and Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, Megamind, I Love You, Man, Jennifer’s Body, Juno, The Ladykillers, Law & Order, Poseidon from Flapjack). Warden Leo Glynn is Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters, Sifu Norris from Dragonball: Evolution, Miss Congeniality 1-2, Airheads, Agent Fowler in Transformers Prime, 1 ep of Childrens Hospital, 2 eps of Heroes). Harold Perrineau as Hill, the handicapped narrator (Link from The Matrix 2-3, Flynn from 28 Weeks Later, Mercutio from Romeo + Juliet 1996, Lost).
Tim McManis is Terry Kinney (who I’ve never run into, tho he was in 7 eps of thirtysomething). Sister Pete is Rita Moreno (Carmela from 780 episodes of The Electric Company) (pic of her young, pic of her with blue hair).
Ryan O’Reilly is Dean Winters (who is actually Irish-Italian) (30 Rock, Rescue Me, Terminator:The Sarah Conner Chronicles). Bob Rebadow is George Morfogen. Agamemnon Busmalis is Tom Mardirosian. Kareem Said is Eamonn Walker (Dr. Mathison in Unbreakable, Kings, Justice, The Bill, In Sickness And In Health). Father Ray Mukada is B.D. Wong (The Salton Sea, a cockroach voice in Joe’s Apartment, Mystery Date, Law & Order:Special Victims Unit, All-American Girl). Alvarez was Kirk Acevedo (Band Of Brothers, The Thin Red Line, Fringe, The Black Donnellys, Law & Order:Trial By Jury).
Officer Joseph Mineo was Philip Scozzarella (only ever in Oz + 1 bit TV movie part). Cyril O’Reilly was Scott William Winters (Clack from Good Will Hunting, Agent Samuels from 4 eps of 24 S6, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back). Dr. Nathan is Lauren Velez (Maria LaGuerta from Dexter, New York Undercover). Chucky “The Enforcer” Pancama is Chuck Zito (Man On The Moon, Gia), who is a real ex-con. However, he was a biker in real life, not a Wise Guy. Chico Guerra is Otto Sanchez (Push (2006), Kidnapped). Chris Keller is Christopher Meloni (Law & Order:Special Victims Unit, Frank from the movie Carriers, The Grand Wizard from Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo, Freakshow from Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, Gene from Wet Hot American Summer, Runaway Bride, Sven the Clerk at Flamingo Hotel from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, the movie Bound, Twelve Monkeys, Hal Jordan/The Green Lantern from Green Lantern:First Flight, 1 ep of Michael & Michael Have Issues, 5 eps of NYPD Blue).
Poet is Craig muMs Grant (Dark Water), and has served actual time. Officer Sean Murphy is Robert Clohessy (Boardwalk Empire, Kidnapped, Ohara, Arthur 2011). Jaz is Evan Seinfeld aka Spyder Jonez, ex-bass player of Damnocracy, porn star/director (which explains why he likes to flash his dick so much). Simon Adebisi is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Heavy Duty from G.I. Joe:Rise Of The Cobra, The Bourne Identity, The Mummy Returns, Hitu from Ace Venture:When Nature Calls, Mr. Eko from Lost). Robson was R.E. Rogers, writer/director of F–K and Crash&Burn, but not really in much stuff outside of Oz. Governor Devlin was Zeljko Ivanek (Emile Danko from Heroes, Andre Drazon from 24, Homicide:Life On The Street, In Bruges, Black Hawk Down, Hannibal, Donnie Brasco, The Event, Damages). Officer Claire Howell is Kristin Rohde (Homicide:Life On The Street).
Enrique Morales is David Zayas (Sgt. Angel Batista in Dexter, The Expendables). Officer Diane Whittlesey is Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano from The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie from Nurse Jackie, 4 eps of 30 Rock). Omar White is Michael Wright (Elias Taylor from the original V series). The O’Reillys’ mom is Betty Buckley (Eight Is Enough). Death-row Shirley Bellinger is Kathryn Erbe (Stir Of Echoes, Law & Order:Criminal Intent). BTW, she was married to the actor who played Tim McManus — though they divorced in 2006.
Clayton Hughes was Seth Gilliam (The Wire). Nino Schibetta (the father) was Tony Musante (Detective David Toma from Toma way back in 1974). Peter Schibetta (the son) was Eddie Malavarca. Mobay is Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire, Jonh Hex, Godzilla 1998 [uncredited bit part]). Raoul “El Cid” Hernanzes was Luis Guzman (Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Dumb And Dumberer, Anger Management, Punch-Drunk Love, The Salton Sea, The Count Of Monte Cristo, Traffic, Magnolia, Arthur 2011) (NOT from Weeds). Nikolai Stanislofsky was Philip Casnoff (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Strong Medicine). Officer Dave Brass, the basketball player, is Blake Robbins (Agent McGuinness from 1 ep of Firefly, Tom Halpert from 3 eps of The Office). Carrie Schillinger was Jenna Lamia (Hi-Life). Supreme Allah was — get this — an actor named Lord Jamar. Pro basketball player Vahu was Rick Fox (in lots of stuff, but nothing I’ve heard of).
Napp was Mark Margolis (Black Sawn, The Girl Next Door, The Fountain, Daredevil, Infested, Requiem For A Dream, Pi, Ace Ventura:Pet Detective, Arthur 1981 [uncredited wedding guest], The Equalizer). Rev. Jeremiah Cloutier was Luke Perry (Dylan from Beverly Hills 90210). The chick who (SPOILER ALERT) almost got Beecher out on parole that one time was Sandra Purpuro (5 eps of Days Of Our Lives, 2 eps of 24).
And Miss Sally was Whitney Allen.
Also weird: Steve Buscemi directed 2 episodes.
PLOT SUMMARY: Jail sucks ass. Oz chronicles life in an experimental prison ward called Emerald City, where prisoners have more rights. It is considered an experiment, and a luxurious unit for a prisoner to live in compared to GenPop — the general population units where fights and rape are that much more common. The main character (if there even is one) would be Tobias Beecher, a lawyer who killed a girl in a drunk driving accident, now serving 15 years. He is the “everyman” compared to the typical scum that resides in this prison. You watch as group after group struggles for power, and then struggles to stay alive. Muslims, Latinos, Aryans, bikers, Christians, gangstas, Italians — almost every group is separated by lines drawn via racial or religious categorization. Life here — even in this experimental unit where it’s not as bad as GenPop — is very hard. Staying alive is hard for almost anybody. Jail sucks ass.
BACKWARD PLOT SUMMARY: Corpses re-animate into prisoners who join other prisoners, all of whom serve prison term, are released, and then go on to commit crimes. (Hmmm — that’s barely different than the plot in forward order!)
UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers]→ Tax dollars fail to rehabilitate prisoners.
QUIRKS: Jail. Struggles for power. Violence. Violence. Violence. Tension. Struggles for power. Violence. Politics. Violence.
VISUALS: Bleak, and mostly the same sets over and over. In this series, you only see the outside world maybe 5 times before it’s over.
SOUNDTRACK: There isn’t really much of one. Though in the last 2 seasons, they have this “whoo whoo” sound they use during high tension/spooky moments, which make me & Carolyn imitate Bubb Rubb from the Whistle Tips videos on YouTube. Funny stuff. Look it up. “Y’all should be up cookin’ your eggs!”
MORALS: It’s not the who or how that’s important when people die — but the why. That’s the only human part of the story.
POLITICS: Lots of politics about the American prison system, and how fucked up the laws are, and how they don’t necessarily solve any problems. Most of this is done through Hill’s narration each episode, but some of it is done via characters such as the asshole governor Devlin.
GOOD STUFF: Great character development and interaction. For instance, I liked how they kept you guessing about Keller. I changed my mind about my opinion of him at least 4 times! They kept me guessing! His character reminded me a bit of the main character from The Rules Of Attraction.
Beecher was awesome when he was crazy. (“Who else would you get to represent you? Beecher?” [Beecher throws cards up in the air in the background.])
The series actually has a lot of comedic moments too, despite being pretty bleak and depressing.
The series finale wrapped up most of the story lines relatively nicely, all things considered.
BAD STUFF: Slight shark jumpings throughout the later seasons… The religious angles got a bit preachy. The musical episode with the LSD overdose — c’mon! Ridiculous! The writers of that subplot should be shot – no amount of LSD will leave you brain dead! Occasionally a plot or character would be dropped without mention in between seasons. (Remember Glynn’s hot black secretary? Poof!)
CONCLUSION: A great series about prison life. TONS AND TONS of characters and subplots.
Clint: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10. “My favorite characters were Beecher, Ryan, and Cyril, I felt bad for Omar White. All he wanted was a friend, but he was pretty nuts… Vern Shillinger was a dick, and I guess his granddaughter didn’t change him after all. And then Keller… wow… that guy was nuts…”
RECOMMENDATION: This series is not for the faint of heart, but it is an excellent (albeit exaggerated) look into prison life.
SPOILERY SUMMARY: S1=Beecher’s Vern’s prag,prison riot,Whittlesby smuggles cigaretes,shoots guy who was in biker gang with her during riot,Alvarez’s baby born,dies,he cuts his face, S2=Beecher’s gets crazy,bites tip of Robson’s dick off,shits in Vern’s mouth,falls in gay love with Keller,gets arms&legs broken,Adabizi gets sober briefly,O’Reilly kills Dr.Nathan’s husband via his retarded brother Cyril,Said refuses clemency,Hill wants to escape,lays in coffin, S3=escape totally glossed over!,Beecher’s lover rats on Vern,gets shived,health care privatized,Alvarez gouges out C.O.’s eyes,goes to solitaire,hangs self,boxing exhibitions,crazy C.O. stalker chick,Snake the family-murderer arrives;Hill rats on him;to protect Hill wiseguys kill Snake, …, S5=Beecher’s childhood friend is a prick,becomes Aryans’ prag,Keller on death row,Cyril’s trial,Omar White’s so pathetic,learns to sing,S5E6=jump the shark musical episode with LSD overdose making guy brain dead; Keller/Cyril/Hoyt on death row,narrator(Hill) killed, S6=Robson cuts his ‘nigger gums’ out but still becomes a prag,gets aids from Cutler,Beecher paroled,Keller tricks Beecher into violating his parole, Said shot dead,killer wants Omar White to kill him,Omar wouldn’t,so he kills Omar, Keller death sentence commuted, he kills ex-prag who killed Beecher’s dad, Cyril almost executed,then later is, Leo Glen killed,Devlin implicated,Kwerns back as warden, Alvarez inherits all of Cutler’s stuff, even tho they didn’t know each other, Agamemnon Busmalis marries Norma, Beecher kills Schillinger AND Keller, both by accident, bio-terror attack takes out Aryans, ends Oz.
SIMILAR SHOWS: I’ve actually never watched a prison show before, so I got nothin’.
Agamemnon “The Mole” Busmalis: This is the best Miss Sally ever.
Robert Rebadow: God told me.
Augustus Hill: The worst stab wound is the one to the heart. Sure, most people survive it, but the heart is never quite the same. There’s always a scar. Which is meant, I guess, to remind you that – even for a little while – someone made your heart beat faster. And that’s a scar you can live with. Proudly. All the days of your life.
Martin Querns: DON’T fuck with Querns!