Jan 3, 2013

[TV] Alcatraz: Season 1

The 2012 TV season saw quite a number of shows with J.J. Abrams attached to the project one way or another. Alcatraz was one such series that involved Abrams as Executive Producer and even dragged in LOST actor Jorge Garcia as part of the cast. The things we do to get the attention of one fanbase (in this case LOST) and use that to get viewers for a new show.

But the show had a pretty short life and was cancelled after the first season concluded. And I totally get why - the show just lacked a strong enough hook to keep audiences truly committed to the show. And maybe if the writers worked on a stronger "villain" of sorts or a more interesting meta-plot to keep things interesting and other typical concerns for shows like this.

As is the case with shows like this, it sort of slipped past my radar in terms of my reviews, hence the rather significant delay in terms of posting this. And while the show died mid-2012, thought it might be good to tie up loose ends with the current shows work towards the end of their respective seasons for the 2012-2013 term.


Synopsis: Alcatraz was a science fiction television drama created by Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt through Bad Robot Productions.

In 1963, the infamous Alcatraz Prison is shut down supposedly due to safety concerns. But in truth, at least with respect to the show, something happened and 256 inmates together with 46 guards just disappeared one night, never to be seen again. And since there was no other way to explain things, the prison was simply shut down and the secret buried in history.

Fast-forward to the present day and "the 63's" have started to return one-by-one, again for reasons unknown. They haven't aged a day since their disappearance in 1963 and each seems to have their respective goals. Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), once a police officer involved in Alcatraz, is now running a special operation to reacquire these prisoners. And he ends up recruiting police detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) in his little operation and Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), who is an expert on Alcatraz and its history.

At first the show certainly had the trappings of being interesting - after all we do have a central mystery potentially involving time travel and maybe some secret mastermind. After all, the various 63's each seem to have a specific goal that they need to accomplish and they aren't totally unprepared for dealing with the modern day. That means there's someone behind all this.

But of course the show had to go with the "inmate of the week" format as the show unfolds, and that can get pretty repetitive over time. We can only endure that sort of procedural nonsense for so long before we need something more compelling to keep us involved in the show.

And it probably doesn't help that Sam Neill tends to ooze the "secretly a villain" vibe in a lot of his recent work, including this show. I mean seriously, how can anyone trust a guy who is as slimey and two-faced as any character played by Sam Neill? No wonder he hated kids in Jurassic Park. But I jest.

The show was definitely weak on the character front, and this is best demonstrated by Sarah Jones as the lead character. She is such a non-presence on camera that it surprises me that they selected her for the lead at all. And while you can compare perhaps the early characterization of Olivia Dunham on Fringe maybe, but Olivia matured a lot quicker as a character than Rebecca did over this entire season.

Jorge Garcia wasn't that great an addition either. I loved him in LOST - we all loved Hurley after all. But here it was a weird mix between Hurley and a wannabe geek. Seriously, he just never cut it as an expert on Alcatraz history and given his role in providing key information every episode, the show just really wobbled in this regard. A lot of miss-casting all around.

I can feel the effort that they put into the tailend of things to try and accelerate the meta-plot and make us all suspicious of where the inmates were coming from and who Sam Neill truly was. But it's not like we ever trusted his character to begin with and the death of the show doesn't exactly leave me lamenting its passing in the least.

Alcatraz certainly had a good core premise, but they didn't really know how to dress it up and sell it to audiences better. Thus the first and only season of the show can only really rate it as 1 quirky time-traveling inmate out of a possible 5.


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