Ever wonder about the irony of calling one of grittiest, most sadistic and savage television shows ever screened Oz? We’re clearly not in Kansas anymore, though we’re also not in TV land as we remember it. A dark kind of morality has entered our lounge rooms, and in a world where the bottom line, corporate dollar, and not offending the sponsors seems to dictate ever single decision, it’s a marvel that Oz ever made it past its pilot episode. Though thankfully it did and it’s in this first season on this two-disc set that we see how some of the key players who remained with the show for seven odd seasons came on board. We’ve got the intense Muslim minister Saed, the scheming Irishman O’Reilly, and Beecher the lawyer who’ one lapse in judgment lands him inside as the Aryan leader Schillinger’ bitch and a cast of numerous others who came in and out of the show. Even early on it’s a fight for survival, it’s natural selection, this is one show where being a main character doesn’ make you immune to being shanked in the shower. Be warned the body count is high. Whilst its shocking nature, the violence, language, drug use, nudity and questionable morality all make Oz feel like something new, the reality is that we’re watching an age old form, the soap. And this is the key to Oz, it rings so true because we’re there for everything to see how Oz gnaws at people and drags them down. The writers are incredibly good at reflecting the subtle changes in each character, also in humanising demons and conversely in demonising humans. The staff are not immune as they continue to face all manner of moral dilemmas in the course of duty, the idealistic instigator behind Oz McManus, the perennially tired Warden Glen, counsellors, priests and screws. It’s classic stuff, TV has never been this violent, shocking and well written, lets hope it’s a blueprint for the future.
-Bob Baker Fish