For Our Consideration: 20 years ago, Oz locked down the prestige-drama formula

Although it doesn’t dominate the conversation around them anymore, HBO has still produced more prestige dramas than any other network, cable or otherwise. In fact, you can trace a curlicued path from the current golden age of TV back to one of the pay-cable network’s earliest original dramas. This series premiered in the late ’90s, featured an expansive cast, and juggled humor and realism in a gritty setting. There were capital-letter themes, lots of nudity, and warring factions, not to mention Edie Falco in a starring role. The Sopranos is a fair guess here, as David Chase’s crime drama was the first cable series to be nominated for (and subsequently win) the Emmy for outstanding drama series, and is generally considered one of TV’s greatest achievements. But while The Sopranos is certainly part of the prestige drama’s lineage (arguably the trunk of that tree), it …

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