I just finished watching the first sex episodes of Alcatraz.
the new Fox series exec produced by JJ Abrams of Lost fame. It’s pretty easy to spot the similarities between these two shows – for a start Hurley (Jorge Garcia) plays main character “Doc” and it is based upon a supernatural type premise. In Lost it was a mystical island in Alcatraz, well, it’s a mystical prison.
Unlike Lost. Alcatraz is far more ‘monster-of-the-week driven with each episode (so far) being the introduction, history and elimination/imprisonment of a former Alcatraz inmate. The series is based on the premise that on March 21, 1963, the say Alcatraz Prison was closed, over 300 inmates and 40 guards were not transferred but rather went ‘missing’. This included some of the most dangerous criminals of the 20th century have somehow re-surfaced to repeat their crimes. It is the job of special government agency to hunt down the prisoners – the agency is run by FBI Special Agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neil), police detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and doctor Diego Soto (Garcia), an expert on the history of Alcatraz.
The ex-inmates seem to be propelled by an (as yet) unnamed agent of some sort and to have no recollection as to how they arrived in the 21st century. Like Lost, there are indications that something much larger is at work behind the scenes and ongoing hints of conspiracies/collaborations/entanglements to come.
So far I am less than thrilled,
mainly because Alcatraz has been aimed so squarely at what the producers obviously consider to be the same demographic that faithfully watched, speculated and argued about the Lost mythos for 5 years – this was a highly engaged audience – and one that demonstrated that there was room on commercial television for challenging narratives. But, being an intelligent audience, my feeling is that they still will not have forgiven Lost for copping out & screwing up so badly after season 2 and especially in the finale – (wth right?)
In Alcatraz, the Lost oeuvre (if I may) is being used as a formula so whereas Lost was new, interesting and had potential, Alcatraz feels stale and derivative – because it is. I remember being really excited about Lost in season one in particular and finding every small revelation (the Others, the hatch – amazing!). Alcatraz has tried a couple of similar moments (I won’t list them here) but they lacked the ingenuity of a hatch or an Other and instead of waiting with bated breath for the next episode al la Lost (which never answered any questions but just raised even more – fabulous!) I find myself not really caring .. meh.
In a nutshell.
Alcatraz is on ok series. It won’t change your life and if you were a Lost fan you might find the similarities annoying – because honey, this is no Lost. But, it is well acted for the most part, has high production values, is trying very hard to be interesting and may find its feet if it lets go of the Abram connection and tries to find its own identity. In the meantime, the monster/criminal of the week is predictable at best and it’s difficult to really care about the characters or the narrative developments.