Having not watched this series when it was originally out (late 90s) it was like looking back in time (not too far back) watching it now. The quality of the picture – not HD -, camera work, etc. All from another era. We have come a long way in a relatively short time.
Don’t forget that Oz was one of the originals. One of the original cutting edge HBO series as it started its run a few years even before The Sopranos. An OG. Even watching today its violence, depiction of sex and full frontal male nudity would cause discussion. Back then it was really eye and head popping for many.
Oz, created by Tom Fontana who had previously worked on series like St. Elsewhere, Homocide: Life on the Streets and more recently Borgia and the in development Decalogue, was the series at the time which everyone talked about around the proverbial water cooler. It had tongues a wagging a plenty…for good reason.
As such everyone – veterans and up and comers – wanted to be on the show. By the fourth season each episode is bursting with faces you are familiar with. You will see Ally Sheedy, Luke Perry, Rick Fox, Betty Buckley, Christopher Meloni, Austin Pendleton, B.D. Wong, Robert Clohessy, Domenick Lombarduzzi, Pepa, Lance Reddick, Larry Pine, Zeljko Ivanek, David Zayas, Lee Tergensen, Harold Perrineau, Terry Kinney, Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaje, Kirk Acevedo, Rita Moreno, Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Eamonn Walker, Dean Winters, and Luis Guzman. Many used the series as a launching pad to lucrative acting futures.
Emerald City is an experimental ward in a men’s prison which houses the worst of the worst criminals. The men there are given more freedoms than inmates usually are afforded. To see if rehabilitation is possible even with those considered the most violent. With the freedoms comes drugs and violence in Em City. There are several groups including the Muslims, Italians, Bikers, Latinos, Aryans, Gays, Gangsters, and others. They all compete to be top dog.
-Two Audio Commentaries Featuring Series Creator Tom Fontana and Stars Rita Moreno, Dean Winters and Lee Tergensen on Episodes “You Bet Your Life” and “Famous Last Words”