Oz: So good
it's a crime
but don't expect to sleep
The New York Post
is so well-made, it's sometimes difficult to sit through an entire
More than any other show on TV, "Oz" requires you to brace yourself
before making a commitment to watching it.
It's so explosively gory, so profane, and so unflinching in its
brute force that it can leave you drained and shaken no matter how
much you prepare mentally for the experience.
And thanks to the late hour in which HBO schedules it, you often end
up trying in vain to go to sleep while images of unspeakable
suffering dance around inside your head.
And yet, this deeply disturbing series, which would receive at least
a hard "R" rating if it was a movie playing in theaters, earns a
four-star review due to the uncompromising quality of its production
- acting, script-writing, direction, set design and any other
category you care to name.
"Oz" tells the story of an experimental prison ward where hardened
criminals live in Plexiglas cells and mingle in a common area under
harsh flourescent lights. The futuristic setting - constructed in a
studio on the west side of Manhattan - has either sprung from the
imaginations of the show's creators or is based on some real prison
ward they've heard about. Either way, the makers of "Oz" have
managed to conjure up a world so hellish that it outstrips just
about anything you've ever had a nightmare about.
In Oz (short for Oswald State Correctional Facility), white and
black factions - each of them splintered into other sub-groups - are
involved in a kind of continuous face off, in which various
characters circle each other warily before springing like coiled
snakes in a tense round-robin of revenge and counter-vengeance.
Tonight's episode inaugurates the show's fourth season. The show
picks up where last season left off, with racial tensions on the
brink of detonation.
If you're tuning in expecting to see a race riot, guess again - "Oz"
would never be that predictable.
It gives nothing away to reveal that by the end of the episode, the
tensions are still in place, but their nature has changed due to
events that even the most dedicated fan could never have forecast.
Grotesque as "Oz" can be at times, it can also become addictive.
That doesn't mean this show is for everybody. Among the mayhem on
view tonight: An inmate in solitary will die from self-inflicted
cannibalism - which means he took enough bites out of his own arm to
bleed to death; and a number of people, particularly in flashback
scenes, will die from bullets fired at close range.
Shows such as "Oz" and "The Sopranos" make HBO worth subscribing to,
even if some of its other shows, and especially its movies, do not.
It's just as well. If HBO had many more shows as intense as these
two, I'd never get any sleep.
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