I recently began watching the series “Oz” on DVD. It was an HBO original series that ran for six years, beginning in 1997. I learned about the show while doing… research…. about actor Chris Meloni, and learned that he was so impressive in Oz that he was offered a starring role as Elliot Stabler in “Law & Order: SVU.”
So I ordered the first two seasons on DVD through the library. Wow. I don’t usually watch a lot of television, and when I do, I prefer comedy to drama. I am usually a big wuss about blood and violence, but this show has me hooked.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it is about a fictional maximum security prison, Oswald, nicknamed Oz. Within Oz is a model unit called Emerald or Em, City which is run by assistant warden Tim McManus. McManus believes that even the most hardened criminals can and should be rehabilitated. Em City is a mix of criminals, from forgers to serial killers with life sentences. Em City residents have more freedoms than prisoners in the general population. They wear their own clothes, do their own laundry, have jobs, attend counseling and GED classes. They also have a strict set of rules that, if broken, can get them kicked out of Em City.
So, all in all, not a light and fluffy show. Lots of violence, nudity, bad language. Not my usual viewing preference at all. But wow, what performances! I’m addicted. Did I mention the nudity? Full frontal nudity?
Seriously, it’s an amazing show and I can’t believe I never heard of it before. The acting is superb. It forces the viewer to think about the whole idea of prisons and incarceration.
And, three seasons in, I’m picking up a whole new vocabulary. I now know the difference between a shank (sharpened metal object) and a shiv (any sharpened object, ie toothbrush). “Tits” is not a slang term for female anatomy, but refers to drugs. Someone who breaks the rules and gets kicked out of Em City is sent back to gen pop, or the general prison population. A hack is a correction officer. A prag is….well, something no one wants to be….someone’s prison bitch.
The only downside about the show is that it is something I definitely don’t want to watch with my 13 yr old around. But at least it gives me something to do on the weekends when he is away with his father!