• Network: HBO
  • Series Premiere Date: Jul 12, 1997
  • Season #: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6
Metascore
70

Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 17
  2. Negative: 1 out of 17
  1. Reviewed by: Lee Winfrey
    May 15, 2013
    100
    The first new drama series ever produced by Home Box Office, Oz, is a powerhouse. It will probably push the quality standards for television drama as far as HBO's masterful Larry Sanders Show has expanded the parameters of TV comedy series. [9 July 1997, p.C01]
  2. Reviewed by: Gail Pennington
    May 15, 2013
    100
    In a stifling summer of same-old, same-old on the tube, HBO's Oz is a shock of ice water in the face, a kick in the stomach, an exciting, exhausting, horrifying, mesmerizing trip to hell, operating as the Oswald Maximum Security Prison...For adults who choose to go to hell and (not quite) back, Oz is just about as powerful as TV drama gets. [10 July 1997]
  3. Reviewed by: Matt Zoller Seitz
    May 15, 2013
    100
    For the most part, Oz is an awesome achievement - an alternately crude and elegant attempt to expand the boundaries of the one-hour drama. If it can avoid an over reliance on prison movie clichs, stay focused on the redemption theme and give its powerhouse cast more room to breathe, it could be one of the most important works ever aired on American television. [12 July 1997, p.29]
  4. Reviewed by: Lon Grahnke
    May 15, 2013
    88
    During the first hour of Oz, you aren't likely to grin or chuckle at the shocking pain, cruelty, horror and hopelessness in "The Routine" -- unless you appreciate grim irony and twisted gallows humor. [11 July 1997, p.35]
  5. Reviewed by: Terry Kelleher
    Jun 26, 2013
    83
    You won't escape easily from this drama's grip.
  6. Reviewed by: Diane Werts
    May 15, 2013
    80
    We're talking major-league adult content here - from unblinking strip searches, to human branding, to brutal violence and language that the broadcast networks have never even thought about airing. But that's only an alert, not a warning, because this drama series from tube auteur Tom Fontana ("Homicide," "St. Elsewhere") packs a dramatic wallop as potent as its frankness. [11 July 1997, p.B47]
  7. Reviewed by: Steve Johnson
    May 15, 2013
    80
    Engaging, sometimes brutal. [12 July 1997]
  8. Reviewed by: Caryn James
    May 15, 2013
    80
    Oz can also be unpleasant to watch, it is so gruesome and claustrophobic. Yet over the first few weeks, as the series moves beyond its introductory shock value, it becomes more serious, disturbing and gripping.
  9. Reviewed by: Manuel Mendoza
    May 15, 2013
    80
    Beyond the cursing, nudity and brutish behavior, Mr. Fontana makes the most of his opportunity by pushing TV's visual and storytelling limits.[12 July 1997, p.1C]
  10. Reviewed by: Elaine Liner
    May 15, 2013
    67
    It's as though Levinson and Fontana decided to throw everything onscreen that they're not allowed to show on broadcast television. But pushing the boundaries doesn't make Oz better or more realistic than "Homicide." If anything, it infringes on the storytelling. It's one thing to shock viewers for the sake of drama, quite another to frighten them into worrying about what visual affront to their senses will pop up next...If you can get past all that, Oz does tell some intensely interesting tales about life in a modern maximum-security prison, stories vastly different from the ones used in the average prison movie or cop show. [11 July 1997, p.47]
  11. Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    May 15, 2013
    63
    If Fontana's goal is stark realism, it's undercut by the overly theatrical device of a funky narrator, an inmate who uses a wheelchair (Harold Perrineau) and who barks his thoughts into the camera. A sample commentary: "People kill to stay alive. That's as true in prison as out. But I'm wondering why in here we fight so hard to stay alive." [11 July 1997, p.3D]
  12. Reviewed by: Eric Mink
    May 15, 2013
    60
    The problem is people; the characters are interesting, but that's pretty much as far as it goes. Whether they live, die, are brutalized, treated fairly or unfairly it all comes at you in such a rush that you don't know what to make of it, if anything...That's a serious flaw, although there are signs in the first two episodes that the problem could be remedied as the series proceeds. If it is and I'm intrigued enough to keep watching my like could conceivably turn to love. [10 July 1997, p.106]
  13. Reviewed by: Howard Rosenberg
    May 15, 2013
    60
    Its uniqueness and arresting style don't earn it an unqualified endorsement here, for its first two Fontana-written episodes are absolute downers--there's no light at the end of a tunnel, nor even a tunnel--that offer no central characters to like or pull for...Be forewarned, too, that Oz is flat-out the most violent and graphically sexual series on TV. By contrast, it makes ABC's "NYPD Blue" look and sound like dancing Barney. [12 July 1997, p.F2]
  14. Reviewed by: Ray Richmond
    May 15, 2013
    50
    A bleak, agonizingly downbeat and occasionally over-stylized vision of prison existence. It's about as pretty as a decaying corpse, and there is no one to root for. [11 July 1997]
  15. Reviewed by: Hal Boedeker
    May 15, 2013
    40
    The series offers undeniable shock value - it's a Scared Straight! for adults. But for all its technical dazzle and bracing content, Oz never overcomes a dramatic hurdle: It's nearly impossible to care about the characters. [12 July 1997, p.E1]
  16. Reviewed by: Scott D. Pierce
    May 15, 2013
    40
    Oz is well-written, well-acted, well-directed and full of superior production values...I don't like it. It's billed as a realistic look at prison life, and I'm in no position to dispute that ; I've never served time. Oz is certainly graphic, gritty and bleak. It is also unpleasant to watch. Where is the entertainment value in something this unremittingly dark and unpleasant? [12 July 1997, p.C01]
  17. Reviewed by: Frederic M. Biddle
    May 15, 2013
    30
    A pretentious exercise in cheap thrills, by great talents who've been allowed to run amok. [11 July 1997, p.D1]
User Score
9.2

Universal acclaim- based on 34 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Nov 22, 2013
    9
    There is no doubt, after reading many reviews, that the critics are not as qualified to write them than the fans are. Anyone that gives this show a 60 or below doesn't really understand great television and should resign. Walking Dead Season 2 is also highly underrated on here. To give The Sopranos lower scores than Homeland is downright despicable. You should be thrown in prison. Full Review »
  2. Jan 3, 2013
    8
    Great TV series on the darkest of the human spirit. Went all surreal and to the absurd towards the end of the series. Despite the quality of the acting, the narrative got lost in a spiral of gritty violence and aparent permissiveness/chaos. Disapointing finale. Full Review »
  3. Nov 26, 2012
    9
    Oz is the show that started HBO, and it was a great preface to the television that would come. From the amazing opening theme to the ending credits, I guarantee that Oz will entertain you like no other TV show has. The tension of Breaking Bad, the scope and amazing characters of The Wire, and the smart writing of The Sopranos; and all years before any of those shows were being produced. While the show's influence is difficult to find in modern TV, it is definitely there. Here in the first season, we are introduced to some of the most realistic and best acted characters in TV history. Adebisi, Said, Beecher, Schillinger, Wheelchair Boy; all of these characters have their own outlooks on life, prison, and life in prison. They come together to make an interesting and thought provoking take on prison life and outside life in general. Who are the real criminals: the convicts or the guards? What about the death penalty? Do convicts deserve basic human rights? These are all questions that Oz poses through characters and events both just and unjust, and every minute of it is entertaining. Not to mention the camaraderie and humor among the prisoners and guards. Oz is a show that will leave you thinking and laughing at the same time, all while beating out the funky theme song on your favorite chair, breaking your remote in the process. On to Season 2 for me. Full Review »