|Escaping to where? A mystery past and present to solve for our heroes of ALCATRAZ. Images: Kharen Hill for FOX.|
Comparisons to previous and distinctive BAD ROBOT/ J.J. Abrams productions are inevitable and unavoidable as far as the ambitious new multi-genre crossing FOX series ALCATRAZ is concerned: a ballsy leading lady (and blond, perhaps a homage to Hitchcock's passion for that hair colour with his heroines) with a mystery shrouded past yet to be revealed, acting alongside quirky supporting characters-some friendly, some with agendas, long term story arcs that may not necessarily be conveniently tied up anytime soon, some kind of island somewhere, one word titles, all-round weird goings on, and Michael Giacchino's now all too samey music, as well as links and nods to previous hit shows like THE 4400 and the granddaddy of them all, THE X-FILES. But, with its fast paced opening episode feel and a reasonably fresh new take adapting many popular film and TV icons- part mystery drama, part sci-fi/time travel, part conspiracy thriller, mixed with a little bit of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION-ALCATRAZ, created by LOST writer Elisabeth Sarnoff with Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, and soon to air exclusively on the UK's WATCH HD channel from 13th March, does show enjoyable potential which I hope sustains itself to at least reach a satisfying destination at the end of its premiere year.
|Sarah Jones as Rebecca Madsen.|
|LOST's Jorge Garcia as Dr. Diego Soto|
|Parminder Nagra as Lucy Banerjee.|
|Sam Neill as FBI Agent Emerson Hauser|
Solid, always on the move direction from British producer/ex-CSI and NIKITA director Danny Cannon keeps things lively and atmospheric against the picturesque San Francisco location filming of the opener, and brings an amiable main cast into focus, too. Sarah Jones proves a comfortable choice in the lead role of sharp eyed and instinctive Detective Rebecca Madsen, adding humour and tomboy-ish looks that make her different from FRINGE's slightly more aloof Olivia Dunham, ably supported by the always likable ex-LOSTer Jorge Garcia, escaping Hurley for the most part in a nice to see series second lead role (bucking the Hollywood trend-Thank God!- of not using way too young, Brad Pitt/ 12 year old looking facial types of the kind we see all too often as leads these days) as Dr. Diego Soto, a more serious but still fun Alcatraz expert/comic book writer whose knowledge of the inmates of the notorious, escape proof prison comes in very handy, though he soon finds a lot of his work turned upside down as frightening new revelations about the island's final days are slowly uncovered. No longer fighting Dinosaurs within JURASSIC PARK, Sam Neill is suitably enigmatic as shadowy FBI agent Emerson Hauser and adds the right kind of menace where needed, whilst ER's attractive Parminda Nagra goes beyond bending it like Beckham to play a character, Lucy Banerjee, whom we soon discover is shrouded in mystery. Could she be the Nina Sharp of the series? (But without the DR NO-ish black gloved hands, I hope!) The occasional appearance of popular seventies film star/character actor Robert Forster as Rebecca's great-uncle and ex-prison guard, with secrets to hide about what happened during the island's final days in 1963, also proves to be a fine casting choice, whom I hope we see a lot more of.
The same for ex-HEROES star Santiago Cabrera, too.
Its not a classic series yet, but ALCATRAZ certainly could be, as the long-term characters and story arcs begin to firm up and we find out more about the kidnapped 63's: 302 missing prisoners, wardens and their families who literally and inexplicably vanished into thin air in 1963- their loss covered up by the authorities- and whom are now returning to the present day, seemingly one by one, un-aged and with a purpose, under the orders of unknown deliverers/benefactors, to bring chaos to San Francisco and modern America. Is this mysterious, destiny controlling force from a down to Earth, as yet untraceable source? (Using a kind of Philadelphia Experiment type technology developed by ambitious scientists and government men in the sixties?) Are the returnees part of a long term and purposeful programme of de-stabilisation? Or is something more evil, possibly extra-terrestrial, at work? And how is all this connected to Rebecca's family lineage, who worked on the island during that intense period? Will dangerous and disturbing aspects of their past threaten her future? Lots of questions in just the series opener alone, and I look forward to finding out more. Though please, please-note to producers-don't spread the revelations out until five years time with the final episode!
|The full series cast of ALCATRAZ. Coming to the UK's WATCH Channel and HD.|
KOOL TV RATING OF OPENING EPISODE: 4 out of 5
Enjoy the UK WATCH website pages for the new series here: Alcatraz
Check out our previous series preview feature here: DOING TIME ON "ALCATRAZ" | KOOL TV
Look out for more of ALCATRAZ on KOOL TV in the not too distant future.