‘Cobra Kai’ Was Heavily Inspired by the Gruesome HBO Prison Series ‘Oz’

‘Cobra Kai’ Was Heavily Inspired by the Gruesome HBO Prison Series ‘Oz’

What’s the connection between Ralph Macchio, karate kicks, Ernie Hudson, and prison riots? You’d be surprised.

One of the creators of Netflix’s Cobra Kai tweeted Tuesday that “there is no Cobra Kai without Oz.” Yes, the gruesome HBO drama about frequently violent prisoners.

Fact: there is no Cobra Kai without Oz. This show has inspired our storytelling as much as any show and continues to– we rewatched the episodes every day after shooting S4.
‘Oz’ Retrospective: Creator & Stars Reminisce About HBO Series https://t.co/DnwEelCfUR via @Deadline

— Hayden Schlossberg (@McSchlossberg) June 15, 2021

From “Emerald City” to the Dojo

Oz was the first hour-length drama show on HBO, a critical darling that pushed the boundaries of television. It was also a brutally violent, often disturbing series. The show focused on “Emerald City,” a wing of Oswald State Correctional Facility. Oz ran on HBO for six seasons, ending in 2003.

Hayden Schlossberg, who created and co-runs Cobra Kai with collaborators Josh Heald and Jon Hurwitz, tweeted about the influence of Oz in his own creation. In addition to appreciating how the show changed TV production (it set the stage for shows like The Sopranos), he’s also just a fan. Apparently, he and some of the other cast and crew re-watched episodes of the HBO game-changer after filming episodes of Cobra Kai season 4. (That’s a pretty gruesome watch party!)

Much like Oz, Cobra Kai is a knockout. The fan-favorite series has been a scrappy underdog, facing cancelation at YouTube and then Netflix before securing more seasons. The fourth season is set to debut on Netflix later this year, teasing the return of one of the series’ greatest villains. While Oz’s impact on television is undeniable, it’s still a bit of a leap from the gritty series about violent inmates to aging karate masters Daniel and Johnny trying to squash beefs and sweep legs.

In Good Company

Schlossberg linked to an article from Deadline about Oz‘s enduring legacy. The retrospective dives deep, sharing stories from the creator and stars. Dean Winters, who starred as convicted murderer Ryan O’Reily, suggested that Oz inspired another big name creator to try television.

“I did a show seven years ago called Battle Creek. I was sitting on the set with Vince Gilligan and he told me he…became a writer because of seeing Tom Fontana’s work in Homicide,” Winters told Deadline, “and made Breaking Bad because he thought he could get away with it after watching Oz.”

If Gilligan decided to make Breaking Bad because of Oz, then it looks like the guys behind Cobra Kai are in good company.

Brave Cobra Kai die-hards who want to watch Oz to look for influences can do so on HBO Max.

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