Tag Archives: Alcatraz

Spring 2012 Review: Alcatraz

26 Jan

Alcatraz is based on the supernatural premise that right about the time super prison in San Francisco bay Alcatraz was supposed to close, every prisoner disappeared instead of being transferred to other prisons.  These prisoners have started reappearing in San Francisco in the current day at the same age they would have been in 1963.  Main character and homicide detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) is solving a homicide which leads her to Alcatraz, and to a nerdy PhD who specializes in all things Alcatraz named Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia, or Lost’s Hurley).  The two of them briefly meet up with her “uncle” who was a guard at Alcatraz (played by Robert Forster), and eventually run into the paths of FBI agents Emerson Hauser (played by Sam Neill)  and Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), who seem to already know about the return of the prisoner from Alcatraz.  Eventually they round up the inmate, and the FBI invites Madson and Soto to help out with the upcoming appearances of other former Alcatraz inmates in modern day San Francisco.  However, they’ll be on a need to know basis – it seems as if the FBI has a lot of secrets they’re not telling about why and how these inmates are coming back and who is behind it all.

We learn a couple of titbits in the two hour pilot which go toward these mysteries (the first two episodes were aired back to back).  First, Madsen believes originally that her grandfather was a guard at Alcatraz, and learns both that her grandfather was actually a prisoner, and moreso that her grandfather, also back at the same age he was in 1963, was responsible for the death of her partner, which happens in the first minute of the pilot (her partner falls off a roof as she tries to help in what has to be a homage to all-time great San Francisco film Vertigo).  We also learn that Hauser’s partner Banerjee hasn’t aged since the 1963s, like the escaped criminals.

Alcatraz is produced by J.J. Abrams, and comes with the imprimatur of some of the people who brought us Lost.  Like Lost, Alcatraz deals with the supernatural, and time travel in particular, along with big questions which leave the viewer waiting for answers which hopefully come sometime down the line.  Lost, however, started with a much larger story, was initially much more ambitious (I don’t mean that as a good or bad thing), and had a much larger cast.  Lost additionally had virtually no procedural aspect.

Although I haven’t watched Fringe, Alcatraz has a lot more in common initially with X-Files and with what I imagine Fringe to be about than Lost.  There’s a largely procedural element, a monster of the week, so to speak (inmate of the week in this case).  There’s also an ongoing long-term story which involves some shady super secret government organization which knows a lot more than anybody else about the mysterious circumstances, in this case, the disappearance and reappearance of Alcatraz inmates.

I appreciate that I know I’m in for the supernatural up front, and I don’t feel like the scope will continue to grow exponentially from season to season, compared to Lost, which is the upside of a more limited ambition.  Unfortunately, I also don’t find it nearly as intriguing as Lost from the first episode, though maybe, considering how I felt about Lost by the end, that’s a good thing also.  The show already has fallen into the cop cliche pile several times and while these cliches are so ubiquitous that I have learned to tolerate them well enough, it’s hard for a police-based show to be great without at least starting to break away from the most basic, such as the cop who cares too much, the cop who works best as a loner, and others.

The X-Files was an excellent show that became spotty and inconsistent, and a show in which the monster of the week or freak episodes were better than the long-term plot or myth episodes.  I’ve heard with Fringe the opposite is true, that the running plot episodes are better.  If this show can live up to the better-than-average if not great standards of these two shows, it will probably be at least a relatively enjoyable show if not a great one.

Will I watch it again?  I might.  I wasn’t blown away, but it was intriguing enough and I’m hungering for new shows to follow, particularly large mystery shows even though I know I’m likely to get hurt in the end.  After Luck, this is so far the second best new show, but I think there’s a fair distance between the two at the moment.

Spring 2012 Preview and Predictions: Fox

4 Jan

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (now spring!) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13

Spring note:  It’s a lot harder to analyze midseason shows as there’s no collective marketing campaigns going on at one time, as many of the shows start dates are spread (or are even unannounced for some)  Still, we’ll take partially educated guesses.  Also, they’re a lot less likely to get partial pick ups, so maybe that trade off will make it easier)

Fox next.  While not CBS, Fox has been doing well lately, especially among the valued 18-49 demographic.  They’ll be debuting four shows this spring, including a spin-off, a movie port, and a couple of supernatural sci-fi efforts.

The Finder – 1/12

The Finder is a spin-off of Fox hit Bones, created by Bones’ creator Hart Hanson.  That’s really the most important detail here, but we’ll dig a bit further.  The spin-off will be taken from characters introduced in the sixth season of Bones specficailly for the purpose of spinning them off.  The main character, the titular Finder, is to be a House-like figure – eccentric, offensive, paranoid but brilliant and excessively competent.  His particular skill is well, finding things, anything, from people to places to things and he works out of his lawyer’s bar in Key West.

Verdict:  Renewed – I’m not sure what to think again here, but I’ll err with renewal on the Bones brand name.  It’s easy to overlook just how successful Bones has become for Fox, and if any of its magic could rub off on the spin off, Fox could really use a replacement for the likely soon to be departed House.

Alcatraz – 1/16

JJ Abrams executively produces this supernatural science fiction show about a few San Francisco detectives who realize that modern day crimes appear to be committed by people who were Alcrataz prisoners several decades ago.  The main character’s family worked in Alcatraz so she’s super interested, and comes up against a sinister government employee played by Sam Neill who tries to stymie the nascent investigation. The detectives bring in Alcatraz expert and all around nerd Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost) to help out and learn that this conspiracy goes all the way to the top.  Well, it goes somewhere anyway.

Verdict:  Renewed – I realize I’m a sucker for all of these supernatural sci-fi premises.  The shows often don’t work, crumbling under their own weight either right away, or after a couple of seasons, but at the beginning they sound so interesting, novel, and full of potential.

Touch – 1/25

Kiefer Sutherland is back on Fox, this time as father of an autistic boy who has the power to predict future events (Knowing anyone?  Mercury Rising?).  Oh, and Sutherland’s wife and the boy’s mother died (same person) in 9/11 (seriously, what’s the statute of limitations on shows/movies/books in which 9/11 is a peripheral but IMPORTANT part).  Danny Glover co-stars as an expert on children who works with the boy.  The show is from Tim Kring who I’m still angry at deep in my bones for everything associated with Heroes.

Verdict:  12-  After what happened to Heroes, I have no faith in Kring.  Kiefer’s good, but the premise doesn’t wow me.

Napoleon Dynamite – 1/15

Based on the movie, Napoleon Dynamite will follow the adventures of the title character, along with his brother, his best friend Pedro, and others, all of whom will be voiced by the actors who played them in the film.  Presumably, the show will share the same sense of humor as the film which became a surprise hit, and part of the stable of required viewing for anyone who went to college when I did (See: Donnie Darko, Requiem for a Dream).  Personally, while there were certainly funny parts, I’ve always thought the movie was highly overrated, but I appear to have been outvoted on this.

Verdict:  Renewed –  I’m definitely 50/50 here.  It’s an established property and the movie probably appealed to many of the people who are fans of the Fox animation block.  Also, it’s got the same creative team, so that helps it not be a cheap knock off.  I have my doubts, but Fox could use a non-McFarlane non-Simpsons animated success in the mix.