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Oz Season 1

Oz is an HBO series created by Tom Fontana about life behind bars at the fictional Oswald State Penitentiary. It ran for six seasons from 1997 to 2003. It was a milestone in television history. It was the first hour-long HBO drama series, and opened the doors for The Sopranos, Deadwood, Game of Thrones, etc. Season 1 introduces you to the major players in Emerald City, a special unit of the prison, which was created to rehabilitate and not simply punish prisoners.

Emerald City is run by Unit Manager Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) under the supervision of Warden Leo Glynn (Ernie Hudson). You meet a few other staff members such as correctional officer Diane Whittlesey (Edie Falco), prison counselor Sister Peter Marie Reimondo (Rita Moreno), prison doctor Gloria Nathan (Lauren Vélez) and prison chaplain Father Ray Mukada (B.D. Wong). The staff struggles to suppress the rising tensions of the inmates to avoid an imminent riot.

Emerald City is controlled by the staff of Oz, but the inmates run the show. Each episode is narrated by paralyzed inmate Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau). He talks about the themes and issues of each episode, and he is often neutral and the voice of reason in a chaotic place. The stability of Emerald City is rocked by the arrival of Kareem Saïd, a devout Muslim and political activist who immediately assumes a position of power amongst the inmates. He becomes the unofficial leader of the inmates, and that causes some rival inmates to forge an unsteady alliance. There is an awful lot of politicking and shady deals between the Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Homeboys, the Irish, the Bikers, the outcasts, and the Muslims as each group attempts to gain more power and control.

New inmate Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) is perhaps the most relatable character on the show. He was a successful lawyer that was convicted of a DUI and sent to a maximum security prison. He has no street skills and doesn’t know how to handle life in prison. Consequently he ends up being the property of Vernon Schillinger (J.K. Simmons), leader of the Aryan Brotherhood. Beecher becomes a bitch. And you don’t want to be a bitch in Oz. Beecher must adapt or die, and he slowly grows a pair of balls and transforms himself into a badass.

Season 1 is all about struggle. The inmates struggle for power and respect. The staff struggles to keep control. Everyone struggles for survival. Oz is a realistic show. It almost feels like you are watching a documentary. It makes you grateful that you aren’t behind bars. It makes you relieved that you don’t work at a prison. But it’s relatable. There are a few characters that you see yourself in. It scares you a little bit, but it compels you to keep watching more. Oz is a few years old now, but it’s still relevant. Good storytelling never goes out of style.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Shameless Season 1

Shameless is a Showtime series about a poor and dysfunctional family living in a Chicago ghetto. It’s got everything that I want from a TV show: sex, violence, humor, drama, love triangles, drugs, alcohol, criminals and petty thugs, amazing writing, and great characters played by great actors.

William H. Macy stars as Frank Gallagher, a drunken loser with six kids. He’s selfish, egotistical, and spends his days drinking and ignoring his kids. The beautiful Emmy Rossum plays Fiona Gallagher, his oldest child and surrogate mother to the rest of the kids. She runs the household and keeps the family from falling apart. They are the two main characters of the huge ensemble cast and they drive the main storylines of the first season. Frank moves out of his house and starts mooching off of Sheila Jackson (played by Joan Cusack), who is recently separated from her husband, and collecting huge disability checks for her agoraphobia. Meanwhile Fiona gets a new boyfriend named Steve (played by Justin Chatwin) and she reluctantly lets him into her chaotic life.

Season 1 introduces you to the Gallaghers and how they live. They aren’t your typical family. They come from a broken home. They hate their mother for abandoning them, and still love Frank despite all the shit he’s done. He never left them. He’s a deadbeat deplorable drunk, and a terrible excuse for a human being, but it taught them to rely on themselves rather than him. All the kids in the family work and hustle to make money to pay the bills. They look after each other, stand up for each other, defend each other, and are fiercely loyal to each other. They watch TV together, eat and drink and smoke together. They aren’t perfect, but they are proud of that.

You also get to meet a few other characters from around the neighborhood, friends, enemies, cops, drunks, sluts, and thugs. There are a lot of characters and subplots and arcs and I’m too lazy to write about them all. You might notice I didn’t even write about all the Gallaghers. There are just too many of them. They all have their own character traits and they all get something to do. Shameless is a great show. It only took me about fifteen minutes to get hooked. It’s more addicting than Breaking Bad. That’s a bold statement, but I’m sticking to it. Breaking Bad doesn’t have nudity and Shameless does. Emmy Rossum is beautiful and you can see her boobies. Game over.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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American Horror Story: Murder House

American Horror Story: Murder House is the first season of the acclaimed FX series. Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton star as Ben and Vivien Harmon, who move into a haunted house in an attempt to repair their broken marriage. Taissa Farmiga plays Violet, the brooding teenaged daughter. The Harmons have to deal with a nosy neighbor with a hidden agenda and the many deceased occupants of their new home.

McDermott and Britton do a good job as the main characters, but Jessica Lange steals every scene that she’s in. She plays Constance Langdon, the next door neighbor with an obsession for the haunted mansion. She used to live in the mansion and quite a few of her dead children call it home. Her son Tate (Evan Peters) is her pride and joy, despite the fact that he’s a homicidal high school shooter and a ghost. Naturally, Tate and Violet start to fall for each other.

There are quite a few dead residents living in the mansion. There’s a maid that appears to be old to some people and appears as a sexy minx to other people. Ben’s ex-fling gets murdered and moves in. Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears play a dead gay couple. Even Mena Suvari found time to play a ghost.

As with most shows, the characters make or break the show. American Horror Story: Murder House has great characters. Most of the episodes are interesting enough to keep watching, but the show fizzled at the end. The last episode was downright terrible. Yeah, it tied up loose ends, but it was really cliché and a let down. It sucks getting to the end of a season and being disappointed. It makes you want to give up on the series. Luckily the second season is like a whole new show. It takes place in a different time with different characters and with an asylum as the setting.

Murder House is a good start to a good show. It’s kind of scary and kind of creepy, but it’s more of a character-based thriller with ghosts. The first few episodes suck you in and get you addicted pretty quickly. There are cool characters and crazy twists and interesting backstories. But that last episode really sucks.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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