Oz : Season 1

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

Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 17
  2. Negative: 1 out of 17

Where To Watch

Stream On
Stream On

Critic Reviews

  1. Philadelphia Inquirer
    Reviewed by: Lee Winfrey
    May 15, 2013
    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. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    Reviewed by: Gail Pennington
    May 15, 2013
    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. Newark Star-Ledger
    Reviewed by: Matt Zoller Seitz
    May 15, 2013
    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. Chicago Sun-Times
    Reviewed by: Lon Grahnke
    May 15, 2013
    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
    You won't escape easily from this drama's grip.
  6. Newsday
    Reviewed by: Diane Werts
    May 15, 2013
    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. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Steve Johnson
    May 15, 2013
    Engaging, sometimes brutal. [12 July 1997]
  8. Reviewed by: Caryn James
    May 15, 2013
    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. Dallas Morning News
    Reviewed by: Manuel Mendoza
    May 15, 2013
    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. Boston Herald
    Reviewed by: Elaine Liner
    May 15, 2013
    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. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    May 15, 2013
    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. New York Daily News
    Reviewed by: Eric Mink
    May 15, 2013
    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. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Howard Rosenberg
    May 15, 2013
    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. Variety
    Reviewed by: Ray Richmond
    May 15, 2013
    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. Orlando Sentinel
    Reviewed by: Hal Boedeker
    May 15, 2013
    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. Deseret News
    Reviewed by: Scott D. Pierce
    May 15, 2013
    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. Boston Globe
    Reviewed by: Frederic M. Biddle
    May 15, 2013
    A pretentious exercise in cheap thrills, by great talents who've been allowed to run amok. [11 July 1997, p.D1]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 71 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 1 out of 10
  1. Feb 23, 2015
    Oz really does not hold up well at all, from its incredibly unrealistic take on prison to it mediocre acting in the first season. The actingOz really does not hold up well at all, from its incredibly unrealistic take on prison to it mediocre acting in the first season. The acting feels like a low budget off Broadway play, even though there are some great actors on the show. The plot in the majority of these episodes is more absurd then Days of Our Lives from ghost priests to the lottery this show is just silly. I will say however this show paved the way for some great tv that followed. Full Review »
  2. Nov 22, 2013
    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 thisThere 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 »
  3. Jul 11, 2012
    Oz shows every angle of prison, everything from when a new prisoner walks in, to the children of those prisoners. It also has what might beOz shows every angle of prison, everything from when a new prisoner walks in, to the children of those prisoners. It also has what might be the best first episode of a TV series, The Wire is possibly the greatest but honestly takes a few episodes to get into, but with Oz, the very first episode puts one into such an awe that they have to watch the following episode. This is known to be HBO's first ever 1 hour dramatic series along with also being "Anything Goes," attitude and surely it doesn't disappoint. If the story isn't enough for one to get into the cast should DEFINITELY get one into the show. A combination of plenty of guys from "The Wire" (before it aired obviously) and others really put together an incredibly series. The reason it doesn't get a 10 is because although personally i loved this series and every bit of it, some people may not have the stomach for this show. Oz shows the real story behind prison: gangs, murders, rapes, and corruption, so there aren't many moments of accomplishments on this series; what i mean is, you won't be saying "YAY!" too often, and when you do it'll be quiet and often that "YAY" becomes a "DAMN" later. But nonetheless, this series is a roller coaster and only a fool couldn't get into it. Full Review »