The inmates at the Oswald State Correctional Facility seem a little blue on the jarring sixth-season premiere of HBO's "Oz" (8 p.m. Sunday).
"More than usual?" laughs executive producer and creator Tom Fontana.
And in a way, their general malaise for reasons that range from lost loved ones to released loved ones to loved ones in the process of being lost has everything to do with the series going off the air.
Those last eight episodes include the death of a longtime inmate, freedom for another, a clarity and realization of life for two more and the dehumanizing of a prisoner on the edge of what could be his last days.
"If anything, where I'm going with certain characters is to I hate using the word 'resolve' but to move the character up to another level before the series ends," says Fontana, 51, who has written practically every episode since "Oz" premiered in 1997. He decided to end the series before it overstayed its welcome, explaining that he didn't know if he could produce a seventh season that could stand up to the preceding six, so he figured it was better to call it a day.
Wise business practices: Making a dramatic movie out of last year's Enron scandal is tough because, no matter how nefarious the creative bookkeeping mess was, it's still creative bookkeeping (boring).
But CBS' "The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron" (8 p.m. Sunday, WBBM-Ch. 2) works because it doesn't just detail who fudged on deals that never materialized or money never accounted for. Rather, it personalizes the debacle by following the "Enron-zation" of one naïve junior executive (Christian Kane of the WB's "Angel") who likens working for the company to playing "center field for the Yankees."
"The Crooked E" reveals an outfit almost cultlike in the way it turned its employees into shills blind to the truths staring them in the face. It may influence those watching to think twice about the company-speak they're being fed by their own top execs.
Quick flips: The fanciful USA Network series "The Dead Zone" (9 p.m. Sunday) returns for a second season, picking up from last season's frightening finale: clairvoyant Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) shaken following visions of a destroyed Washington, D.C., after he shakes hands with shady congressional candidate Greg Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery).
The series' visuals are sharp, and Hall is apt as a reluctant, sometimes-wisecracking hero. Producers could show a little more of the sadness that comes with such haunting powers which is the sympathetic way the character came off in the excellent Stephen King book and 1983 Christopher Walken movie.
Also returning for a new season is Lifetime's "The Division" (7 p.m. Sunday), which becomes the network's signature drama now that superior "Any Day Now" is gone. The series, about a group of female San Francisco police inspectors, is going to have to go a little further to deserve the mantle, judging from a third-season premiere that mixes a little too much daytime drama with the cop stuff. There are also new episodes of the medical drama "Strong Medicine" at 8 p.m. and legal series "For the People" at 9 p.m. but Lifetime isn't renewing the latter.
Led by the sweetest and most caring man in show business in the person of Laugh Factor owner Jamie Masada, "Stand Up: A Summer at Comedy Camp" (2 p.m. Sunday, WTTW-Ch. 11) is a touching and sorrowful, but ultimately uplifting, look at how the Hollywood comedy club annually schools several disadvantaged teenagers on the nuances of performing stand-up comedy as a way to gain confidence and self-esteem.
News you can use: Veteran comedians Stiller & Meara are reunited on an upcoming episode of CBS' "The King of Queens." Anne Meara will appear opposite her husband, Jerry Stiller, as the mother of Spence (Patton Oswalt), a friend of Arthur's (Stiller) son-in-law, Doug (series star Kevin James).
Wizard of 'Oz' says 6 is enough
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