Well, not that it has been all that missed, but I have not done a blog in a long time. With the demise of LOST, I was just too depressed to go on. But at mid-season Fox debuted Alcatraz!
But anyone expecting the next Lost might be disappointed by Alcatraz – with its eccentric scientists, government agents and icy blonde female lead, the show more closely resembles that previous Fox/Abrams collaboration Fringe.
The Premise – Alcatraz has a strong premise that is effectively set-up in the pilot episode: the entirety of the island prison’s inmate population vanished decades ago without explanation, but now, one by one, the prisoners are coming back, without having aged a day. It’s a simple idea but one that allows for both a ‘villain of the week’ procedural element and a developing series mythology.
The Scientist, Comic Geek and Spy – Jorge Garcia is very much on form in the Alcatraz pilot, and provides some much-needed humor. OK, his character Dr Diego Soto is basically just Lost’s Hurley slightly better dressed, but Garcia is nevertheless a charismatic presence.
The Shady Government Agent – Sam Neill is also fun in the somewhat limited role of Emerson Hauser. Now I confess that I really love Sam Neill. I was first introduced to him in the BBC/PBS program Rilley Ace of Spies; A dramatization of the missions and adventures of the greatest spy in British history- Sidney Rilley, back in 1983. And as a sidebar, if you’ve never seen it I cannot recommend it enough to you. But I digress, Sam doesn’t get a lot to do in the pilot, but there’s a twist at the end of this opening installment that suggests there’s more in store for this character. Plus, he gets to head-butt someone, and if that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will.
Alcatraz Prison Warden aka: The Villain – E.B. Tiller is, to me, the whipped cream and cherry on the sundae of this program! He’s a tyrannical authority figure who may be even worse than the criminals he mistreats. The actor Jason Butler Harner, is playing the part perfectly. Tiller is creepy and detestable and he knows more about what is going on in the mystery that the rest of us do. Destined to be this program’s Ben Linus, the guy you love to hate.
The Cop/Hero – Unfortunately, of the three lead performances, it’s Sarah Jones as cop Rebecca Madsen who’s the weakest. It’s possible that Sons of Anarchy actress Jones is simply struggling with a flatly-written role. To draw that Fringe comparison once again, let’s not forget how viewers judged Anna Torv early on, only to marvel at her talent and range once she was actually given something interesting to do. I hope that the same is true of Jones, but as it stands, Madsen comes across as a rather dreary character.
So should you give Alcatraz a chance? Overall, yes, the show gets my vote. Going on the evidence of the pilot, the series is slick, silly fun. It remains to be seen whether Alcatraz will break out and develop an ongoing mythology strong enough to draw in viewers like Lost did, or if the show will fall back on the reliable procedural format. Personally, I’m hoping for the former – Alcatraz may not be the next Lost, but with a few tweaks, it could easily become as compelling.