Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It Came From The Tube: Alcatraz

Caught the premiere of Alcatraz last night. First time I've watched live TV in... wow, I can't remember. Alcatraz is the latest series from executive producer J.J. Abrams, of LOST, Star Trek and Super 8 fame.

So what's it about? On a dark and stormy night in 1963, all 256 prisoners and 49 guards inside Alcatraz prison suddenly vanished without a trace. Flash forward to 2012, when the inmates begin to reappear unaged and start wreaking havoc in the modern world.

Police Officer Rebecca Madsen teams up with Alcatraz expert Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia, of LOST fame) to investigate the reappearances of the inmates. Along the way they discover a secret government project tasked with rounding up the prisoners, headed by Emerson Hauser (Sam Neil) and his assistant Lucy (Parminder Nagra).

The cast is impressive, especially for a TV show. Sam Neil is great as always. Jorge Garcia pretty much plays himself, which he's done in everything I've ever seen him in. Hey, it seems to be working for him, so good for him. Robert Forster's also in the show and it's always great to see him. He doesn't turn up in TV shows much. And of course I'll watch anything Parminder Nagra's in. I've been crushing on her ever since Bend It Like Beckham.

Overall I was impressed with the premiere. In addition to the great cast, there's plenty of action, a continuing mystery to unravel and even time travel shenanigans. I was intrigued enough by the revelation at the end of the second episode to come back for more.

There are lots of flashbacks to 1963, which lead to unavoidable comparisons to LOST. Hey, much of the action even takes place on an island! Hopefully that's where the similarities will end and the show won't degenerate into the murky morass of abandoned plot lines that LOST turned into. If anything the show's police procedural format is more reminiscent of Fringe, which is a good thing, IMO.

My one fear is that the show could become repetitious very quickly. If every episode is going to feature an inmate showing up and killing some people while the good guys search for him, find him and put him into super time-proof prison, it's going to get old really fast. They'll need to shake things up now and then to avoid the Scooby Doo Syndrome ("Old Man Johnson dressed up like a monster to scare people away from the Big Rock Mine treasure!"). Hopefully they realize this and will adjust the plot lines accordingly.

Take a little bit of LOST, a LOT of Fringe, some Green Mile and X-Files, and even a little bit of Friday The 13th: The Series, shake well and you get Alcatraz.

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