Oz-Season 1 (1997)
|Year Of Production||1997|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Programme|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
Paramount Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Oswald Maximum Security Penitentiary, Oz to its inhabitants, has set up an experimental wing to try new techniques for prisoner rehabilitation. Known as Emerald City, or Em City to its inhabitants, the wing features perspex walls instead of bars and an increased hack to con ratio (that's more guards to inmates for anybody not down with the lingo). This wing forms a microcosm of the inmate population of the jail and its controversial practices have a habit of speeding up tension among the inmates as much as they may speed up rehabilitation.
Created by Tom Fontana, Oz was HBO's first foray into producing its one hour dramas and remains both one of the station's most critically acclaimed and most popular. Despite a consistently high quality output, the only show produced by HBO that has really had a bigger impact is The Sopranos. A decade after it first aired, Oz still stands ahead of its peers in terms of quality and relevance.
Like The Sopranos, Oz never looks for "easy" answers to the questions it raises. More often one question will only lead to another and that chain will ultimately weave its way though whole seasons. Combined with first rate performances, this brutal look at the penal system, its ethics, politics and effects, will hook anybody looking for a thoughtful drama as well as mindless hordes looking for sex and violence. Few shows manage to consistently work so well on both levels. Oz pulls no punches, nor should it.
Its diverse range of characters is largely what makes Oz so engaging. This first season is no exception, introducing us to:
The episodes of this season chart the rise of tensions in Em City up to an explosive event that completes the series. They are:
This episode introduces many of the characters that would go on to be series mainstays and starts up many of the relationships and tensions that went on to drive the plot for several years. In particular, we witness the start of Beecher and Schillinger's ongoing feud.
The episode itself focuses on the stir-crazy madness caused by the daily prison routine, particularly how it affect the hot-headed Dino Ortolani.
This episode looks at prison visitations on both sides of the glass, so to speak, with nearly every prisoner meeting someone from the outside.
After a number of deaths in custody from different inmate factions, Warden McGlynn tightens security and threatens a full-scale lockdown but this does little to ease tensions.
As part of his "tough on crime" election platform, the govenor (himself no less of a crook than half the inmates) re-introduces the death penalty. It's not long before several heads are on the chopping block, including existing inmates.
Tim McManus tries to make deals with several of the key players in Em City in an effort to stop the flow of drugs throughout the wing. The situation gets messier when Tim suspects the cons are getting help from some of the hacks in their endeavours.
The Miguel Alvarez reunites with his father and grandfather, both of whom are long-term inmates at Oz, in a well meaning, but somewhat misguided, rehabilitation effort. Tempers flare elsewhere in Em City, and several incidents end with a significant number of the senior inmates in the medical ward - including a Mafioso whose "specially prepared" meals don't agree with him
Ultimately, the moral of this episode is "enjoy your health while you've got it"!
Many a plot and plan hatched throughout the season reaches fruition. The Donald Groves, a white cannibal who literally butchered his family, has decided to become a Muslim but doesn't meet Said's racist approval.
An argument over a game of checkers explodes into a full-blown riot that many rival factions use as a guise to settle scores that have built up over the course of the season.
The video transfer is plagued by sloppy digital transfer artefacts, most likely as a result of NTSC to PAL conversion, but is not too bad to watch.
The PAL video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame.
The video is moderately grainy throughout the episodes and soft by comparison to more recent shows, but the image is clear. The transfer is plagued by interlacing artefacts that further soften the image and occasionally give it a slightly blurred appearance. This effect appears to be more pronounced on digital displays - it was not particularly noticeable on my regular CRT television but was noticeable on my smaller LCD display.
The colour palette in the show is somewhat pale in comparison to many recent shows, but the colours are consistent throughout. The level of detail in dark areas is very good.
A moderate degree of macro blocking is visible in the transfer, particularly in areas where the background is affected by interlacing artefacts. There are no noticeable problems with film artefacts.
From the small sample I watched, the English subtitles appear accurate and well timed.
Both discs in the set are dual layer discs, but contain 2 episodes on each disc layer so no layer break occurs during any episode.
The series was produced prior to surround sound coming en-vogue for television shows. There are no bells and whistles in the soundtrack, but it is crystal clear and has an excellent dynamic range. There is plenty of deep bass that comes through in the subwoofer range (especially the funky opening and closing theme).
Three audio tracks are available, English, French and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0.
The dialogue is clear and mixed at an easily audible level. There are no noticeable problems with lip sync.
|Surround Channel Use|
None at all.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 edition of the first series of Oz is spread across three discs and features a range of extras, none of which are found on the Region 4 release. Specifically, Region 4 misses:
In it's favour, the Region 4 edition features a wider variety of foreign language subtitles as well as French and Italian language tracks, but the clear winner of this comparison is the Region 1 edition for its extra content.
Oz is a gritty, involving mash up of social commentary on the American penal system and character-based drama (or should that be don't drop the soap-opera?) that stands up as well today as it did when it first aired a decade ago.
The lack of extras is disappointing, given that an extras-laden edition is available in Region 1.
The video transfer is fair, but suffers from noticeable interlacing artefacts throughout. The audio is fine.
|DVD||LG V8824W, using S-Video output|
|Display||LG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|