HBO | Release Date: July 12, 1997
Generally favorable reviews based on 19 Critic Reviews
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Philadelphia InquirerLee WinfreyMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
St. Louis Post-DispatchGail PenningtonMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Newark Star-LedgerMatt Zoller SeitzMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Chicago Sun-TimesLon GrahnkeMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
NewsdayDiane WertsMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Chicago TribuneSteve JohnsonMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: Engaging, sometimes brutal. [12 July 1997]
Dallas Morning NewsManuel MendozaMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Boston HeraldElaine LinerMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
USA TodayMatt RoushMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
New York Daily NewsEric MinkMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Los Angeles TimesHoward RosenbergMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
VarietyRay RichmondMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Orlando SentinelHal BoedekerMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Deseret NewsScott D. PierceMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: 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]
Boston GlobeFrederic M. BiddleMay 15, 2013
Season 1 Review: A pretentious exercise in cheap thrills, by great talents who've been allowed to run amok. [11 July 1997, p.D1]