OZ creates an atmosphere around its cast of utter discomfort. You watch it hoping that the writers went over the top and you shudder at the thought of spending even one minute of your life in this hellhole, let alone the rest of your days. There are no fancy sets in OZ (in fact, there's only one set) and there are no pretty girls and teenage stars with capped teeth. OZ is made up of a fantastic ensemble cast containing mostly actors you've never heard of before. In this second season, you find the old mainstays, the glue that holds this ship all together: Dean Winters, J.K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Kirk Acevedo, Eamonn Walker, Adewalle Akinnuoye-Agnaje and Tim Kinney in their respective roles as prisoners Ryan O'Reilly, Vern Schillinger, Tobias Beecher, Miguel Alvarez, Kareem Said, the loathsome Simon Adebisi and Cell Block Manager Tim McManus. Around these men, most of the stories revolve and most of the prison power play gravitate. With the help of some more familiar guest stars such as LL Cool J and Luis Guzman, this season delves a bit more into the inner workings of their minds than did the first one and allows them to appear a bit more human, if not more likeable. The same goes for the prison employees: the warden (Ernie Hudson), the Chaplain (BD Wong), the Nun/Psychiatrist (Rita Moreno). They all form a part of an unlikely family who along with the inmates, try to survive in the jungle of prison.
OZ is not an easy show to watch and it's definitely not my idea of "light entertainment". OZ is the kind of show you want to show to your buddy who's been driving after a few too many drinks. It's the kind of show you want to show your neighbor's kid who stole a bike the week before. It's the kind of show you want to show that guy in high school who was selling his little dime-bags of weed. It makes you think. It makes you appreciate the things you have before they were taken away. Am I going too far? Is it just a TV show? Maybe and yes, but in this day and age of idiotic reality shows, where half the programming consists of bachelors and bachelorettes trying to score a quick lay or of 24-hour newscasts trying to make any stupid thing look like the Watergate scandal so they can slap on a fancy little title and sell some ads, OZ stands out as one of the few remaining shows that one can call intelligent, original and meaningful.
The next (and last) offering has a bit more meat in which to sink your teeth. It's a twenty-minute long roundtable discussion conducted by the Museum of Television and Radio featuring many members of the cast and crew including OZ creator Tom Fontana who leads and moderates the chatter. If you want a comparison, think "Inside The Actors Studio" without the pompous-ass host and instead, with Fontana hosting and quite frankly, being all-around hilarious and entertaining. The discussion is actually pretty light-hearted with most sharing little anecdotes about the shooting schedule and location and Fontana himself focusing on the creation of the show. Pretty satisfying although brief.