Thursday, 7 June 2012

TV: Alcatraz (S1) (5/10)

Coming from J.J Abram's stable and set on the mysterious prison island of the same name, Alcatraz had all the ingredients to be a great show. Unfortunately, it was billed as the new Lost and although this surely attracted viewers to the early episodes, this expectation probably did more harm than good as the show falls a long way short of Abram's work.

I'm sure most viewers did not expect to be tuning in each week to watch a really weak police drama with the occasional scrap of intrigue thrown in relating to the 1963 Alcatraz era. With the exception of the first and final episodes, the episodes are repetitively mechanical and formulaic. Each time we are introduced to a new inmate from 1963 on the loose in modern day San Francisco, each one as clich├ęd as the last. A sniper, child killer, poisoner, bomber, bank robber are all covered throughout the series. The team then use Dr. Soto's (played by Jorge Garcia) in depth knowledge of the prison along with the inmates personal belongings to track down the escapee within the totally contrived time-frame required.

In casting Jorge Garcia as one of the main characters, the producers did not help but draw similarities to Lost. Garcia does not help matters as his character may as well be Hurley, with his shyness, wit and cuddly teddy bear personality. Just in case the desire to replicate Lost wasn't totally obvious, the producers hired Lost's composer Michael Giacchino. The results are an almost identical Lost-style string loop piece of music.

In replicating Lost's penchant for posing more questions than providing answers with the view to a long run, Alcatraz shot itself in the foot as the result is a show not half as good as Lost and it does not do enough to maintain the viewers intrigue throughout the season. The bulk of the episodes tease by mainly dealing with the inmate's recapture rather than shedding any light on the how and why of their reappearance after 40 years. It was early on that we found out that Lucy was a 63'er, we then discovered that the sinister warden was doing something to do the blood of certain inmates with silver and ultimately that he appears to be behind the reappearance of the inmates, tasked with tracking down keys for a room on Alcatraz.

Sam Neil was the biggest name to sign on for the series but his character was incredibly dislikeable and his cranky and aggressive nature to his colleagues wore me down throughout the season.

Alcatraz is the latest in a few sci-fi based TV shows to not survive past one season (see FlashForward and Terra Nova). Overall I feel the producers made it difficult for the show to be successful and while the show has some serious flaws, I feel that with the unanswered questions and remaining intrigue it did have the potential to grow into something better and probably deserved a second season.

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