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5 reasons to binge-watch HBO's 'Oz'

In 1997, HBO premiered an innovative one-hour scripted drama called Oz. Oz ran from 1997 to 2003, and followed the inmates of the Oswald State Correctional Facility (formerly the Oswald State Penitentiary) through their daily lives as they struggled to survive the harsh and gritty conditions of prison.

The show was smart, it was radical, and it set the stage for many HBO successors. Below are five reasons (in no specific order) why you should put down whatever you’re doing and start binge-watching all six seasons of Oz:

1. The Characters

What other show could get you to care about a ruthless, drug-trafficking inmate sent to prison for murdering someone with a machete? Oz had a way of humanizing even the most ruthless of prisoners. More often than not, you found yourself rooting for the bad guy. But there were always more layers to these prisoners; the correctional officers and wardens of the prison could be painted as the antagonists in comparison to some of the rehabilitated prisoners.

Even the most truly evil of the inmates were fascinating to watch. Though rooted in their own factions, they found ways of interacting together to complete a story. We learned about their pasts, why they committed their specific crimes, and what their inner workings were. There was more to these characters than just a prison number.

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2. The Stories

One of the most captivating aspects of Oz was watching how each individual adapted to prison and life within. Some took to the prison like glue, finding their respected groups and knowing their place Others journeyed down long and painful paths to learn the ways of being locked up. Despite the large number of characters and stories the show juggled, each one was unique and intriguing.

Each episode was set up by narrator and fellow wheelchair-bound inmate Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau), who poignantly justified the ways of man and gave detailed narratives on the hardships of life. Each of Augustus’ continuing monologues would deeply relate to each episode’s premise, finding the relation to everyday life no matter who you were. The stories were often political, emotional, and suspenseful. When an inmate died, your heart broke; when a character was paroled, you celebrated. The narrative created around these stories pulled you in on a personal level.

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3. Groundbreaking for HBO

These days, HBO has no shortage of truly excellent, push-the-boundaries television series. The premium cable network has received hundreds of award nominations from the Emmys alone. But Oz was HBO’s first one-hour scripted drama. Without Oz, shows like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and The Wire (to name a small few) wouldn’t have been possible. Oz took risks, utilizing some uncommon TV tropes of the time, not to mention the wide diversity of the cast. From gay relationships to full-frontal male nudity, Oz was unlike anything else when it came to serialized television.

Fun fact: The show was also created and written by Tom Fontana, who stepped up to the plate when it came time to shoot the opening-credits montage. He is now forever branded with the famous OZ tattoo seen given in the less-than-two-minute opening.

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4. The Acting

Oz was full of some of the best actors seen in media today. These actors showcased some of their best work on the HBO drama. Four-time Emmy winner Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie), EGOT winner Rita Moreno, JK Simmons (various awards for Whiplash and Law & Order), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), Dean Winters (30 Rock, Rescue Me), and Harold Perrineau (Lost, Zero Dark Thirty) were all part of the star-studded cast. Many actors went on to star on acclaimed and award-winning shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, Lost, The Wire and Law & Order: SVU.

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5. The Relationships

For some viewers, relationships between characters can make or break a show. Accordingly, audiences seem to gravitate toward the unconventional and sometimes unhealthy bonds that develop between characters. Oz doesn’t skip on these types of relationships. Between inmate Ryan O’Reily (Dean Winters) and prison doctor Gloria Nathan (Lauren Vélez) and prisoners Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) and Chris Keller (Christopher Meloni), Oz never fell short of the borderline-disturbing (okay, way over the border) relationships. But these relationships oddly worked and kept fans intrigued and rooting for the pairings. These special relationships were a small part of what made Oz great; they never hindered on the series as a whole, and only added to the plentiful stories told on the show.

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Currently, Oz can be viewed on HBO On Demand and through HBO GO. So why aren’t you logging in right now and watching the first episode?

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TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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